Every branch of the service has that place their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines just dream of getting orders for.
That place could be anywhere that might appeal to an individual… maybe they love the cultural experience of being in Europe, or they enjoy the sun in Hawaii, or maybe they’re just away from their hometown.
These aren’t those places.
Army: Fort Polk, Louisiana
Ever hear of Leesville, Lousiana? No? Good for you. Living in a swamp is not something anyone grew up dreaming about. The nearest towns are at least an hour away, and the nearest fun is in New Orleans, a long drive away.
Sure, the PX is supposedly great thanks to a facelift, but it had better be: There’s nothing else to do. Fort Polk will supposedly ruin your car, ruin your marriage, and make you hate biting lizards.
Navy: NAS Lemoore
Hey, how does being cast out into one of the most polluted cities on the planet sound? Because NAS Lemoore is a great place to get asthma.
Most people who haven’t been to Clovis will argue that I spelled “Minot” wrong. I argue that any place referred to as “Afcannonstan” is probably far worse.
Both places are pretty remote, and while Minot has a seemingly endless winter, the people of Clovis are annually subjected to a wave of giant insects. Also, the stink of cow dung doesn’t travel as far in the cold. Cannon’s airmen would tell you to be happy it’s so cold.
Marine Corps: Twentynine Palms, California
All of the duty stations on this list have one thing in common: They’re pretty far from real American life. Twentynine Palms is no different. These guys are smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
So, Marines can prep for sandstorms in the Middle East with sandstorms right here at home. And remember, when airmen complain about the smell of cow manure in the desert, Marines can complain about the lake of sewage.
Coast Guard: You tell me.
The Coast Guard talks about its districts like it’s in the world of The Hunger Games. Everyone seems to love district 13. In fact, as much flak as the Coast Guard gets for being the awkward child of the military, the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to have a “worst” station among them.
I’m told the station at Venice, Louisiana can be pretty bad and that the CG will let you choose your follow on orders for doing a tour there. But no one ever seems to talk Twentynine Palms-level smack about any station.
Platoon sergeants have to be jacks-of-all-trades to handle their many roles. They must balance the welfare of their troops and supervise training evolutions all while keeping up with the platoon’s administrative tasks — it’s a lot of work.
When you first enter the unit as a newbie boot, it’s rare that you’ll ever get to know much about your platoon sergeant outside of their name, rank, and how many countries they’ve deployed to. However, there are others who pride themselves on getting to know a few things about each one of their troops. Every platoon sergeant has their own style of leading that works best for them.
But, if you’re in the infantry, you’ll come in contact with at least five different types of platoon sergeants in a grunt unit.
Some platoon sergeants take a back seat to their other NCOs when it comes training their troops. Others want to spearhead the training and break everything down themselves, “Barney style” — which isn’t a bad thing.
2. The organized pointer
This type of platoon sergeant has practically seen it all and done it all. He shows up prepared and ready to kick ass. They know what they need and how to get the job done.
3. The one who wants to get in the fight
This motivated leader helps plan out missions and even lends a hand when they aren’t in battalion-level meetings.
4. The one who loves themselves some training
These are one of our favorite types. They’re the ones who will strap on a heavy pack and go on a ruck march to prove they can lead, and that they’ve still “got it.”
After a 12-mile hike, this platoon sergeant is still smiling — no big deal. (NCO Journal photo by Clifford Kyle Jones)
This is the type that when he speaks, everyone in the platoon listens like the words are spoken from scripture. He’s earned the right to be heard by everyone. Other up-and-coming grunts hope they’ll be like him someday.
Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.
Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.
The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”
Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.
Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”
Not stretched thin
West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”
As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.
“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”
A more lethal force
Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.
“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.
To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.
“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.
A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)
In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.
Global mission sets
“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.
“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.
In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.
“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.
“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”
The A-10 Thunderbolt is arguably the best close-air support plane in history thanks, primarily, to its GAU-8 cannon. The seven-barreled, 30mm Gatling gun holds 1,129 rounds and can chew up a modern tank. Despite its massive success in the air, the GAU-8 has proven to be far more versatile. Believe it or not, the GAU-8 is also at the heart of a last-ditch, anti-missile system used by a number of navies. That system is called the Goalkeeper.
The Goalkeeper uses a combination of sophisticated radars to detect incoming threats, typically missiles, and fires rounds from its cannon to obliterate the target before it can harm the ship. In function, this defense system is very similar to the U.S.’s Phalanx — the albino-R2D2 looking thing found on virtually every American ship built since the 1980s. The Phalanx, by comparison, uses the M61, a 20mm Gatling gun. It’s been upgraded over the years and has an effective range of roughly one mile.
The Phalanx, however, cannot completely prevent a ship from taking damage — the system’s range is too short to guarantee full diffusion. That being said, the damage a ship endures after an incoming projectile is struck by the gun is from fragments rather than a direct hit. The ship may spend a lot of time replacing radars and fixing other gear, but it beats being sunk. The Goalkeeper, on the other hand, intends to reduce the risk of even that damage
According to NavWeaps.com, the Goalkeeper has almost twice the effective range of the Phalanx. The longer range and more powerful rounds mean that when an enemy missile is hit, not as many fragments hit the ship — and those that do will do so with much less energy. This reduces the damage done to the ship and can even make the difference between keeping a ship in the fight and going back to port for lengthy repairs.
The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Navy initially used the system. South Korea later acquired a number of the systems for their surface combatants and the system now serves with the Peruvian, Belgian, Qatari, Chilean, and Portuguese navies.
See the Goalkeeper bring BRRRRRT to a ship in the video below!
Do you remember when former President George W. Bush gave a speech congratulating America for completing the mission in Iraq back in 2003? That took place aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (and is probably a moment the former POTUS would probably like to take back for obvious reasons but let’s stay on track here).
In May of 2017, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was redelivered back to the Navy after undergoing nearly a four-year mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.
Approximately 2.5 million hours of labor were committed to the overhaul and restoration of this legendary aircraft carrier.
The vessel’s upgrades include various repairs and replacements of ventilation, electrical, propellers, rudders, and combat and aviation support systems.
With the innovated modification to the rudders and propellers, the USS Abraham Lincoln can now tactfully turn around with minimal support.
When he made his next major train journey, The Times cited Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Beijing’s Renmin University, on that point.
Cheng said: “He does not want to show the world his heavy reliance on China by waving his hand in front of China’s national flag on a Chinese plane as he did at the Singapore airport.”
“Traveling by train is a forced choice.”
(Photo by Michel Temer)
A hero’s welcome for Xi
Xi’s trip to North Korea is the first from a Chinese leader in 14 years, and he was received like a hero.
According to Xinhua, North Korea held a “grand welcome ceremony” for Xi at the airport, which included a 21-gun salute, the playing of both countries’ national anthems, and an army march-past.
Nearly 10,000 people lined up at the airport, waving flowers, and chanting slogans to welcome the Chinese delegation, Xinhua said.
Xi then departed the airport in a huge motorcade, which included 21 motorcycles. Upon arriving to downtown Pyongyang, the Chinese leader then rode an open-top car alongside Kim to a central square.
BBC Monitoring has published photos of Xi’s welcome:
The state visit comes as both countries’ relationships with the US turn increasingly sour.
Beijing and Washington are locked in a protracted trade war, which has seen both sides impose hundreds of billions of dollars on each other’s exports, and the Trump administration is trying to limit the influence of Chinese tech around the world.
North Korea’s relationship with the US has also soured since Kim and Trump’s February summit in Vietnam ended without an agreement.
Pyongyang conducted new missile tests last month, which the US national-security adviser, John Bolton, claimed violated UN Security Council resolutions.
On June 19, 2019, both countries’ state media published an essay, written by Xi himself, that lauded the two countries’ friendship and praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by trying to resolve political issues on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim and Xi during one of Kim’s four visits to China. Xi’s state visit to North Korea is the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years.
Xi wrote, according to Xinhua: “I will pay a state visit to the DPRK with good wishes of carrying forward our friendship and writing a new chapter of our relations.”
DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea.
Kim has been trying to alleviate international sanctions imposed on his regime, but they have remained in place. China has remained committed to those sanctions despite being North Korea’s largest trading partner.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During World War II, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were responsible for leading their nations to victory and jointly planned strategies for the cooperation and eventual success of the Allied armed forces. Roosevelt and Churchill had already agreed early in the war that Germany must be stopped first if success was to be attained in the Pacific. They were repeatedly urged by Stalin to open a “second front” that would alleviate the enormous pressure that Germany’s military was exerting on Russia. Large amounts of Soviet territory had been seized by the Germans, and the Soviet population had suffered terrible casualties from the relentless drive towards Moscow. Roosevelt and Churchill promised to invade Europe, but they could not deliver on their promise until many hurdles were overcome.
Initially, the United States had far too few soldiers in England for the Allies to mount a successful cross-channel operation. Additionally, invading Europe from more than one point would make it harder for Hitler to resupply and reinforce his divisions. In July 1942 Churchill and Roosevelt decided on the goal of occupying North Africa as a springboard to a European invasion from the south.
In addition to the troops, supplies, ships, and planes were also gathered. One photograph shows some of the equipment that was stockpiled in this manner. Countless details about weather, topography, and the German forces in France had to be learned before Overlord could be launched in 1944. In November American and British forces under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed at three ports in French Morocco and Algeria. This surprise seizure of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers came less than a week after the decisive British victory at El Alamein. The stage was set for the expulsion of the Germans from Tunisia in May 1943, the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy later that summer, and the main assault on France the following year.
Because of this success, Eisenhower was named commander of all Allied forces in Europe in 1943. When in February 1944 he was ordered to invade the continent, planning for “Operation Overlord” had been under way for about a year. Hundreds of thousands of troops from the United States, Great Britain, France,Canada, and other nations were assembled in southern England and intensively trained for the complicated amphibious action against Normandy.
General Eisenhower’s experience and the Allied troops’ preparations were finally put to the test on the morning of June 6, 1944. An invasion force of 4,000 ships, 11,000 planes, and nearly three million soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors was assembled in England for the assault. Eisenhower’s doubts about success in the face of a highly-defended and well-prepared enemy led him to consider what would happen if the invasion of Normandy failed. If the Allies did not secure a strong foothold on D-Day, they would be ordered into a full retreat, and he would be forced to make public the message he drafted for such an occasion. View a large version of the letter here.
Here’s what it says: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
As the attack began, Allied troops did confront formidable obstacles. Germany had thousands of soldiers dug into bunkers, defended by artillery, mines, tangled barbed wire, machine guns, and other hazards to prevent landing craft from coming ashore. Document 3 featured with this lesson shows some of the ferocity of the attack they faced. About 4,900 U.S. troops were killed on D-Day, but by the end of the day 155,000 Allied troops were ashore and in control of 80 square miles of the French coast. Eisenhower’s letter was not needed, because D-Day was a success, opening Europe to the Allies and a German surrender less than a year later.
This article originally appeared on National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.
Millennials as a group may be delusional about the future, but some are making good decisions with their money today.
Generally, many millennials have little to no credit-card debt, put a portion of their income toward retirement, and have a savings account, an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey found.
Of the 4,400 Americans polled, 1,207 identified as millennials, defined as ages 22 to 37 (237 respondents did not select a generation). The margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point.
Here are a few of the ways millennials are smart with their money, according to responses to our survey:
1. They have a savings account.
About 69% of millennials said they had a savings account, compared with 65% of Gen Xers, the survey found.
But while the existence of a savings account is inherently positive, it’s nothing without consistent contributions. A whopping 58% of millennials said they had under ,000 in a savings account, about 19% had between ,000 and ,000, and 11% had between ,000 and ,000.
Many financial planners recommend a high-yield savings account over a traditional savings account for an emergency fund or other short-term need. The best high-yield online savings accounts are offering an annual percentage yield between 2% and 2.5%, and many have no fees and low minimum deposits.
2. They have little to no credit-card debt
Millennials seem to know that keeping a balance on their credit cards isn’t going to make for a good credit score. About 32% said they had no credit-card debt at all — a greater share than Gen Xers (28%). Of the millennials who do have debt, a plurality (36%) said they had under ,000.
It might make sense that Gen Xers, who are older and presumably have more expenses, would be more likely to have credit-card debt, but in this survey the oldest millennials were 37 — and people’s 30s tend to come with houses, kids, pets, and expenses that are no longer limited to Gen X.
Two smart strategies to pay off credit-card debt, according to financial planners, are the “debt snowball,” which prioritizes paying off the smallest debts first, and the “debt avalanche,” which prioritizes paying off the highest-interest debt first. Either method is effective, so the best approach may be to pick the one you can commit to.
3. They would use a id=”listicle-2634449531″,000 windfall to pay off debt or save.
Given an extra id=”listicle-2634449531″,000 cash, 27% of millennials (a plurality) said they would choose to pay off debt, while 22% said they would save the windfall, the survey found. Only 6% said they would put it toward travel or shopping.
This is good instinct, as financial planners typically suggest stamping out debt with high interest rates first and foremost, even before saving for retirement or another financial goal. Carrying a balance on a credit card can erode your credit score, and fees and high interest rates can continually add to the overall debt load.
In the survey, the millennials who indicated they wouldn’t use the windfall to pay off debt or save said it would go toward outstanding bills (17%), necessities (12%), or an investment (9%).
4. They put more of their income toward retirement than Gen Xers.
Even though 52% of millennials said they didn’t have a retirement savings account, the ones who do are serious savers.
In the survey, nearly 16% of millennials said they set aside 11% to 20% of their income for retirement — more than any other generation. About 5% of millennials, the same share as Gen X, said they save more than 20% of their income for retirement.
A plurality (33%) said they put away between 1% and 10% of their income for retirement, which is a fine place to start. Experts recommend increasing savings rates annually or every time you get a raise.
One of the easiest ways to build wealth is through automatic and consistent contributions, starting with a retirement account. The contributions to a 401(k) or IRA are pretax, so the money will be taken out of your paycheck before it even hits your bank account. Many employers will match contributions up to a certain percentage or dollar amount. It’s basically free money, but you won’t get any of it unless you’re already contributing something on your own.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The most important difference between 1944 and today would be in the realm of guided munitions. I once heard that a single F-15 packs as much firepower as an entire squadron of WWII era bombers, when you take into account explosive weight and the percentage of ordnance you can get on target (Keep in mind, the F-15 is a Fighter/Bomber, not a dedicated bomber. If we start talking about the B-52, things get even crazier). Additionally, Naval Gun Fire support has come a long way since the 1940’s. US destroyers and cruisers now only come equipped with one or two 5″ main guns. In the 1940’s, 5″ guns were almost considered an afterthought. With improved fuses and nearly automatic rates of fire that can be achieved with today’s weapons, you wouldn’t need the hours and hours of shelling they used during WW2 landings.
As far as the landings go, with today’s amphibious landing tactics and equipment, you wouldn’t NEED to land at Omaha beach at all.
This is an LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned). It is just one of the many ways the US Navy and US Marine Corps get troops from ship to shore. The main difference between an LCAC and the landing craft of yore is the fact that the LCAC can access almost any beach in the world, and can travel across dry land. Furthermore, it can achieve incredible rates of speed compared to the Amtracks of WW2 (I think around 70 knots when not weighed down much). Today the US would be able to basically avoid any defensive strongpoints and just stick their landing forces where ever they figured was the least defended.
Helicopters, in widespread use since the Vietnam War, allow entire infantry companies and battalions to be shuffled about at incredible speed compared to the 1940s.
The M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank would probably be as close to invulnerable as anything ever employed in warfare. The only reasonable option for destroying one with 1944 equipment would be swarming it with infantry and trying to get a grenade inside. This technique was costly during WW2. Against an Abrams, with a wingman that can just shower his buddy with HE rounds that do nothing substantial to the armor…
As far as the individual soldier is concerned, the primary difference is the body armor. Ceramic plates and flak jackets have greatly increased the survivability of the infantryman. Back in WW2, your armor was a millimeter of cloth. Today it contains plates that would actually be capable of stopping pretty much any small arms round the Wehrmacht utilized (7.62 AP is the limit, I believe). A quick look at the WW2 Killed/Wounded ratio [1:1.65] versus the Operation Iraqi Freedom Killed/Wounded ratio [1:7.3] shows that even if nothing but the current body armor was added to the equation, it is likely that the US would have reduced the number of soldiers killed on D-Day from 2,500 to probably around 700. On the flip side, the infantry of WW2 would be much faster and more agile, as they weren’t towing around 50+ lbs of gear. So you have a classic heavy infantry vs light infantry situation here.
The Mk19 Automatic Grenade launcher. Designed for use against troops in the open, troops in trench-lines, light armored vehicles, urban strongpoints, and light fortifications, this 76.2 lb beast is technically man-portable (by someone’s standard) and is widely employed on mounted assets. Capable of firing 325-375 40mm grenades per minute, there is arguably no more intimidating weapon in the US arsenal that is commonly used in firefights. I have personally been within 25 meters or so of the beaten zone of someone unleashing a long burst of grenades, and it was, shall we say, disconcerting. This is probably the one weapon capable of allowing an individual to singlehandedly end a firefight.
Today many infantry companies will have communication assets down to the fire team level. This allows for much faster response times to dealing with threats or re-organizing after a firefight or simply getting troops to move around where you want them (radios at the platoon level were very rare during World War 2, and what was in play was of limited range and had no encryption capabilities. When I was in a motorized heavy weapons platoon, we had a dozen PRC-119’s, satcom radios, Blue Force Trackers, etc; we probably had comm capabilities that entire divisions during WW2 would have drooled over. And we had 40 dudes).
While the small arms themselves haven’t really come a long way, the accoutrements certainly have. Every infantryman today is probably equipped with, at minimum, a 4x scope, NVG’s, and a laser for use with night vision. One out of every 4 infantrymen will have a grenade launcher. Another one will have a light machine gun. This allows for the ability to achieve combined arms effects using just a single fire team. And the night-fighting capability, with nothing else, would be a game changer.
The one thing we would be at a disadvantage in would be combat experience. The Germans had been fighting for FIVE years by the time the US actually got into France. Of course, this was an issue during the actual D-Day landings, and didn’t hamper things too much, probably because the allies were facing off against the JV squad, so to speak. At the same time, our military back then was well trained for large scale battles, as opposed to how the US military is organized today. Whether or not the current infantryman would fare well is anyone’s guess.
Free Fun Fact:
One thing that hasn’t changed is the M2 .50 Caliber Heavy Machine Gun. Supposedly something like 95% of the M2s in use currently were originally built during World War 2. The ammunition, however, has received quite the upgrade (SLAP, API, Raufuss, all fun stuff)
Another Fun Fact:
The United States uses a military doctrine termed “Rapid Domination” (Shock and Awe for the soundbite term). The Gulf War and the initial invasion of Iraq during OIF are two examples of this doctrine in use. The basic concept involves gaining air superiority, using tactical and strategic bombers to disrupt and destroy enemy command and control, employing a wide range of offensive maneuvers (amphibious landings, paratrooper drops, armored thrusts, infantry assaults on defensive positions) simultaneously in order to paralyze any decision making ability of the opponent. This military doctrine is heavily based on the so-called Blitzkrieg doctrine of Nazi Germany.
Moldova has expressed concern over what it says were unauthorized movements by Russian military forces in the breakaway Transdniester region.
The Reintegration Policy Bureau, a government department that handles the Transdniester issue and is led by one of Moldova’s two deputy prime ministers, said on June 15, 2018, that the Moldovan government had notified the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about what it called the unauthorized deployment of military trucks and equipment in the region controlled by separatists.
A day earlier, Moldovan authorities filmed some 40 trucks and other military vehicles with Russian symbols and license plates moving along a main road linking the northern and southern parts of Transdniester, a sliver of land along the Ukrainian border in eastern Moldova, the statement said.
The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.
The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.
One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.
The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.
Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.
Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.
In April, the Department of Defense released three videos taken by U.S. Navy pilots showing what the military defines as unexplainable aerial phenomena, or UAPs — more commonly known in civilian vernacular as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
The Pentagon videos clearly show the objects flying in unusual ways, and the audio includes the pilots’ puzzled and astounded reactions, including:
“What the [expletive] is that?”
“There’s a whole fleet of them…my gosh.”
“Look at that thing, dude.”
“That’s hauling ass, dude…look at that thing…it’s rotating.”
“Wow, what is that man?”
“Look at it fly [laughing].”
‘UFO’ videos captured by US Navy Jets Declassified
Naturally, the revelation of these unexplained encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating aerial vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, when it comes to so-called UAPs, lawmakers in Washington have more earthbound concerns.
As China and Russia increasingly militarize space, and as Russia develops a new arsenal of high-tech “doomsday” weapons, there is mounting concern in Washington that these seemingly unexplainable aerial encounters could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting their advanced new weapons into action — potentially over U.S. soil.
As a result, a group of U.S. senators has drafted an order for the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among U.S. agencies. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence made the request in a report, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”
The report also calls for the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. Based on information included in the report, the Office of Naval Intelligence maintains an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. That naval task force appears to be the nexus for America’s collation of reports of UAP sightings — comprising data from military branches, intelligence agencies, and the FBI.
The full text of the Senate report on UAPs. Courtesy U.S. Senate.
The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
While the Senate report marks a major step in congressional oversight of America’s UAP sightings, the Pentagon and federal law enforcement have been alert to the threat for years.
In December 2017, the New York Times reported on the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which reportedly collected reports of UAPs from 2008 until 2012. And over the past two years, the FBI was reportedly tapped to help investigate a spate of UAP reports in Colorado and Nebraska. Some of those UAP sightings occurred near U.S. Air Force installations and were subsequently investigated by security forces at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
F.E. Warren is a strategic missile base and home to the 90th Missile Wing, which operates some 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are armed with nuclear warheads. Those missiles are on 24/7 alert, 365 days a year, according to the U.S. Air Force.
Following the breakdown of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia last year, and with Moscow and Washington increasingly at loggerheads over a broad gamut of geopolitical issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embarked his country’s military on a crash-course program to develop new so-called doomsday weapons.
An Atlas V AEHF-6 rocket successfully launches from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 26, 2020. The launch of the AEHF-6, a sophisticated communications relay satellite, is the first Department of Defense payload launched for the United States Space Force. Photo by Joshua Conti/U.S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.
The 9M730 Burevestnik — known as the “Skyfall” among NATO militaries — is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with virtually unlimited range.
Apart from the Burevestnik, in March 2018 Putin unveiled other new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat U.S. missile defense systems. Among those was the Avangard hypersonic vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.
Russia is also reportedly developing a nuclear-powered underwater drone — the “Poseidon” — that will creep up to an adversary’s coast, detonate a nuclear weapon, and create a 500-meter, or 1,640-foot, tsunami.
According to some scientific journal reports, Russia may also be resurrecting some Soviet-era antisatellite missile programs, particularly one missile known as Kontakt, which was meant to be fired from a MiG-31D fighter.
Whereas the Soviet-era Kontakt system comprised a kinetic weapon intended to literally smash into U.S. satellites to destroy them, the contemporary Russian program will likely carry a payload of micro “interceptor” satellites that can effectively ambush enemy satellites.
The first #SpaceForce utility uniform nametapes have touched down in the Pentagon. Photo courtesy of United States Space Force/Twitter.
The recent creation of the U.S. Space Force reflects the novel threats the U.S. now faces from its adversaries in space.
On June 23, China successfully launched an unmanned probe bound for Mars, underscoring Beijing’s increased interest in its space program. That same day, the U.S. Space Force announced that on July 15 Russia had tested a new antisatellite weapon.
According to a Space Force statement, a Russian satellite released an object that moved “in proximity” to another Russian satellite. Based on the object’s trajectory, Space Force officials said it was likely a weapon rather than a so-called inspection satellite.
That test was “another example that the threats to U.S. and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing,” the Space Force said in a release.
“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk,” said General John Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, in the release.