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.
America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.
But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.
Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.
But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.
Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.
As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.
The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.
The Super Bowl came and went. If you’re a Patriots fan, good going. Now your boy has enough Super Bowl rings to snap half of all life out of existence. Tom Brady was somehow the “underdog” that game… because reasons? The Rams didn’t do anything spectacular after being given a free touchdown via a no-call against the Saints and they got flag after flag for seemingly pointless reasons, and they they still couldn’t… You know what? Whatever. I’m a Detroit Lions fan. We’re used to terrible calls and disappointment.
The real military highlight on Sunday was the Google Ad that inspired everyone to search for civilian jobs for their given MOS for the hell of it. Sometimes, the algorithm was hilariously off. Other times, to be honest, we all kinda knew what the results would be: Aircraft repair guys got told to repair aircraft, commo guys got system admin jobs, water dogs got water treatment jobs, and so on.
On that note, here’re some memes to help soothe over the pain of knowing you could be getting paid six figures for doing a less-stressful version of what you’re doing now.
The Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) assisted a distressed vessel in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California April 20, 2018.
The civilian vessel, Mahana, reported it was taking on water at approximately 10:33a.m.
Pearl Harbor, approximately nine nautical miles away from the vessel at the time, coordinated with Coast Guard Sector San Diego and Mission Bay lifeguards during the rescue.
“Both the tradition and law of the sea is that mariners assist other mariners in distress,” said Cmdr. Ben Miller, from Mobile, Alabama, Pearl Harbor’s commanding officer. “As a U.S. Navy warship, we have a highly trained team of damage controlmen and medical specialists that are able to respond to any emergency at sea. Pearl Harbor was in the right place at the right time to assist the Coast Guard.”
The Sailors aboard Pearl Harbor loaded their rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) with de-flooding equipment and medical gear, and launched within 10 minutes of receiving the call.
“We had line in hand, our team geared up, and were ready to receive orders from the bridge,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Frank Jimenez, from Miami, Florida. “We had eight members manning the RHIB, including the boat team and the rescue and assistance team that were well trained and prepared for this kind of situation.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Donnie W. Ryan)
A Coast Guard Sector San Diego MH-60T helicopter was the first on scene and deployed a search and rescue swimmer to assess the vessel and stabilize the water levels. Coast Guard Sector San Diego requested Pearl Harbor’s response team to stand by for further assistance.
“We grabbed all the necessary equipment, manned the RHIB and lowered the vessel as soon as we could,” said Damage Controlman 3rd Class Quinn Connelly, from Las Vegas. “The Coast Guard was in the process of assisting the vessel when we arrived, so we were standing by for further instruction. They were there with pumps at the ready. We were there as back up.”
The Mission Bay lifeguard vessel escorted Mahana and crew back to shore safely.
Pearl Harbor, part of U.S. 3rd Fleet, is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting routine training operations.
U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. Third Fleet constantly coordinates with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions that promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the Pacific.
An 18-year-old woman died during Navy boot camp this month — about two months after another female recruit’s death, prompting a review of training and safety procedures.
Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles went into cardiac arrest April 23, 2019, after completing a fitness test at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois. She was transported to the nearby Lake Forest Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The cause of death remains under investigation, said Lt. Joseph Pfaff, a spokesman for Recruit Training Command. Navy Times first reported Nobles’ death April 25, 2019.
Recruits begin the 1.5-mile run portion of their initial physical fitness assessment at Recruit Training Command, April 10, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Susan Krawczyk)
“Recruit Training Command reviewed the training, safety, medical processes, and overall procedures regarding the implementation of the Physical Fitness Assessment and found no discrepancies in its execution,” Pfaff said. “However, there is a much more in-depth investigation going on and, if information is discovered during the course of the investigation revealing deficiencies in our processes and procedures that could improve safety in training, it would be acted on.”
Nobles, who was from Alabama, was in her sixth week of training.
Her father, Harold Nobles, told WKRG News Channel 5 in Alabama that he has questions for the Navy about his daughter’s death. For now, though, he said the family is focusing on getting her home and grieving first.
Both the Navy and Recruit Training Command take the welfare of recruits and sailors very seriously, Pfaff said.
“We are investigating the cause of this tragic loss,” he said. “… Our thoughts are with Seaman Recruit Nobles’ family and friends during this tragic time.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
You never really know what you’re in for when welcoming a new guy to the unit. Sometimes, you get handed a young, clueless private who has no idea what they’re in for. Sometimes, you get an apathetic specialist who’s been in for a minute and they’ll just wiggle right into the flow of things. Sometimes, you get a salty sergeant who’s dead set on making your unit just like their last.
Nobody, however, brings joy to everyone in the ranks quite like a new second lieutenant — and it’s not because everyone is just so excited to see them. It’s because they make for the greatest punching bags in the military.
Literally everyone has a go at the second lieutenant. They’re affectionately called “butter bars,” both because their rank insignia looks like one and because they have about the same value as a stick of butter.
Whether it’s done in good fun or out of spite, it’s your duty to give the new butter bar a hard time. Looking for a little inspiration? Try on these ways of letting your new platoon leader that they’re now one of you.
1. Smoke the hell out of them at PT
When new troops arrive at the unit, you’ll most often meet them for the first time on the PT field. Butter bars have a tendency to make long-winded, elaborate presentations that sound something like, “Hi! My name Lt. FNG and I’m honored to be your new platoon leader!”
By this point, you and the platoon have a certain, established rhythm for morning PT that the fresh-out-of-OCS lieutenant can’t keep up with. Show no mercy and go a few extra laps around the company area. Your guys will be cool with it as long as they understand the joke, and the new butter bar will be absolutely gassed.
2. Send them on a wild goose chase
The age-old tradition of sending the new guy to go find something that totally, 100%, absolutely exists isn’t just for privates. It’s open season for butter bars as well.
They probably won’t fall for the old “get me an exhaust sample” trick — plus, if they did, they’d probably just delegate it down to someone else who would ruin the joke. Try something more creative, like “ask the supply NCO about getting you assigned your new PRYK-E6” if their E-6 platoon sergeant is sitting right there. The NCO will gladly walk them through if it means the potential to pawn the Lt. onto someone else.
3. Introduce them to the actual chain of command
There’s no denying the rank structure. Despite how it plays out, the lowliest second lieutenant technically outranks even the Sergeant Major of the Army. However — and that’s with a huge “however” — that should never be confused with the structure of the chain of command.
If they ever mention that they outrank the battalion sergeant major, don’t interfere — just observe. This will go one of two ways: That Lt. is about to get a boot shoved so far up their ass that they’ll be tasting leather or (and personal experience has proven this to be hilarious) the sergeant major will stay calm and collected as they go and grab the battalion commander. The sgt. major then asks the commander what the f*ck, exactly, is wrong with their new guy. The commander then proceeds to chew their ass out.
Let them lead a land nav course
Lieutenants are generally trained to recite answers found in “the book” as they’re written and land navigation is a skill that entirely almost relies on winging it.
But instead of just letting them lead the platoon into danger, establish dominance over them by going to a land nav course that you know inside and out. Let them think that they’re holding the reins while you’re in the background tossing jokes their way and keeping an ever-watchful eye on where you guys are actually heading.
Toss all the paperwork onto their desk
No one wants loads of crap on their hand receipts and now everyone has some poor fool to pawn them off on. You don’t even have to feel guilty about doing this — it’s basically their job to handle all of the paperwork while the platoon sergeant worries about training the troops.
For added measure, gather up all of the paperwork in one giant stack and drop it on their desk at once in that way that’s typically reserved for comedy films. Enjoy watching the sorrow build in their eyes when they realize that it’s not a joke and all that paperwork really does need to be done by final formation.
Eventually welcome them in
The military is one big, dysfunctional, family. We joke around with each other all the time, but there’s a time and place for all of that — there’s never time for legitimate hate or cruelty towards another person who raised their right hand.
Once the butter bar has taken their lashings, they can finally be welcomed in as the new platoon leader. Sure, feel free to offer the occasional jab here and there — but keep it all in good fun. The troops genuinely respect the new Lt. if they take it all in stride (or throw even better insults back).
Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.
Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”
“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.
The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.
The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.
The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.
“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.
Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.
Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.
New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.
“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”
“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.
To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.
According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.
The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.
“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.
“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”
The 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah will be talked about among Marines for years to come, but for some who fought in those deadly streets and from room-to-room, the battle continues to play out long after they come home.
“The most difficult part of transitioning into the civilian world is the fact that I was still alive,” says Matt Ranbarger, a Marine rifleman who fought in Fallujah, in a new documentary released on YouTube called “The November War.”
The end result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, “The November War” gives an intimate look at just one event that changed the lives of the nearly dozen Marines profiled in the film: An operation to clear a house in the insurgent-infested city on Nov. 22, 2004.
“I remember we got a briefing that morning, and I didn’t like it,” squad leader Catcher Cutstherope says, describing how his leaders told the Marines they could no longer use frag grenades when room clearing. Instead, they were instructed to use flash or stun grenades, and only use frags if they were absolutely certain there was an insurgent inside.
“We were all pretty much ‘what the f–k are we gonna do with a flash grenade, it’s not gonna do anything,'” Nathan Douglas says. “We were pretty much right on that part.”
With part interview, part battle footage — shot by Marines during the battle with their own personal cameras — the film is unlike other post-9/11 war documentaries. Similar docs give the viewer insight into a full deployment — “Restrepo” and the follow-up “Korengal” are good examples — or a bigger picture look at both the planning and execution of a combat operation, like “The Battle for Marjah.”
“The November War” takes neither of these approaches, and the film is much better for it. Instead, Garrett Anderson, the filmmaker and Marine veteran who also fought in the battle, captures poignant moments from his former platoon-mates years after their combat experience is over. Some describe going into a room as an insurgent fires, while others talk through their thoughts after being shot.
In describing clearing the house — a costly endeavor that resulted in six Marines wounded — the film reveals the part of that day that still haunts all involved: The death of their friend, Cpl. Michael Cohen.
The documentary captures visceral stress among the Marines. Years later, sweat beads off their foreheads. As they speak, they are measured, but their voices are tinged with emotion. Viewers can tell they see that day just as clearly, more than a decade later.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the film is when Anderson asks all his interviewees whether it was worth it. One Marine filmed is offended by the question, answering that of course every Marine would answer yes. But that doesn’t play out onscreen, as two members of the unit express their doubts.
“Losing that many guys, friends … any of them,” says Brian Lynch, the platoon’s corpsman. “I don’t think it was worth it.”
In the end, “The November War” is one of those must-watch documentaries. It gives a look into what it’s like for troops in combat, and beautifully captures the raw emotion that can still endure long after they come home.
“You know how people say ‘freedom isn’t free?'” asks Lance Cpl. Munoz soon after the film opens.
“Well, you, the one watching this at home on TV right now … sitting eating popcorn, or a burger,” he says, pointing to the camera. “Living the high life. And if you’re a Marine watching this sh– and you’re laughing, it’s because you already went through this sh–.”
A joint surgical team comprised of three separate branches assembled at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, in December 2018 to perform an operation.
Consisting of a Navy surgeon, Air Force nurse, and Army technician, the team was organized to perform a functional endoscopic sinus surgery to restore a patient’s sinus ventilation to normal function.
“It’s always a great experience working with different branches in the operating room where we are able to learn from each other and share different perspectives,” said Army Spc. Travona Parker, Specialty Care Unit surgical technician.
Providing health care in a joint environment works to improve readiness by ensuring that health care providers have the capabilities they need while providing patients with convenient access to care.
U.S. service members assigned to a joint surgical team prepare for surgery at Joint Base-Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Dec. 11, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)
At the end of August 2018, Fort Eustis’ McDonald Army Health Center closed its operating room and joined the Navy in conducting surgical procedures at Hospital Langley. While operating-room time has always been a hot commodity, having both the Army and Navy integrated into the Hospital Langley facility has maximized their utilization.
According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Erni Eulenstein, Surgical Operations Squadron Operating Room flight commander, “Allowing multiple services to operate at Langley has helped reduce the duplication of effort while also increasing efficiency.” If an operating room is not being used by the Air Force, it is often able to be filled by an Army or Navy surgeon to help increase utilization.
Of the surgical operations currently going on at Hospital Langley, roughly 68 percent are done by Langley providers, 28 percent are done by Fort Eustis providers, and the rest are done by Portsmouth providers.
With different services coming together, challenges would be expected. However, besides a few scheduling issues, things have run smoothly. “Everyone seems to be integrating and working well together,” Eulenstein said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, prepares the OR for surgery on Dec. 11, 2018 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dinchen Jardine, Navy Medical Center Portsmouth Department of Otolaryngology, served as the lead surgeon during the FESS procedure and appreciates the opportunity to utilize Hospital Langley’s facilities while working side-by-side with the Air Force and Army. “It definitely helps everyone see and understand best practices that then in turn can add to providing the best care possible for patients.”
Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, has served in all three branches, bringing a lot of experience into the operating room. She enlisted in the Army before joining the Navy reserve as a surgical technician. She then joined the Air Force and went to nursing school where she now serves on active duty at Hospital Langley.
Giffin believes there are many benefits to working as a joint surgical team. “You are able to hear what everyone’s different experiences are and you can compare them to how you do things yourself.”
Bell Helicopters Textron, one of the companies behind the V-22 Osprey and the makers of a proposed Army tilt-rotor, are pitching a new drone for the Navy and Marine Corps that packs tilt-rotor technology into a large drone capable of carrying weapons, sensor platforms, and other payloads into combat.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
The Bell V-247 Vigilant is to be an unmanned bird capable of operating at ranges of 1,300 nautical miles from its ship or base, carrying 2,000 pounds internally or a 9,000-pound sling load, or spending 12 hours time on station.
Of course, those numbers represent maximum endurance, maximum lift, or maximum range. A more likely mission profile combines all three. Bell says the aircraft will be capable of carrying a 600-pound payload 450 nautical miles for a mission with 8 hours time on station. It can also refuel in flight, further extending ranges and time on target.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
And, with just two V-247s, a commander could establish 24-hour persistent reconnaissance of a target. That implies a much lower set of maintenance requirements than manned aircraft, since many require more hours of maintenance on the ground than they get in-flight hours.
Best of all, because the wings fold and it doesn’t need space for a crew, the V-247 would fit in about the same amount of space on a ship as a UH-1Y, tight enough for it to land on Navy destroyers, whether to shuttle supplies or to refuel and re-arm for another mission.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
For armament, Bell highlights its ability to fire air-to-surface missiles, helping Marines on the ground or potentially helping interdict fast boats during a swarm attack on the water.
All in, the design has a lot of the numbers that planners would want to see in a support aircraft. And, because it doesn’t require a pilot, it can do a lot of complicated tasks while reducing the workload of the military’s already strained pilot population. It’s easy to see a role for an aircraft like this in fleet replenishment, in amphibious assault and air support, and in ship-to-shore logistics.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
But, the Navy and Marine Corps are already on the hook for a large number of V-22 Ospreys. The Marine Corps has made the V-22 one of its most numerous aircraft, flying them across the world. And the Navy is looking to buy 38 V-22s to conduct fleet replenishment missions around the world, ferrying everything from engines to potatoes from warehouses on land to ships at sea.
So, while it would be useful for the Navy to get some smaller, unmanned aircraft to move the smaller packages between ships — especially since V-22 exhaust is so hot and fast-moving that it breaks down ship decks faster than other aircraft — there may not be enough money to go around. But the V-247 might represent a valuable asset for the Marines and Navy. And many of the sea services’ missions for the tilt-rotor would be valuable for the Army as well.
More graphic depictions of the proposed aircraft are available below.
Units from the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, in July 2018, only three months after deploying.
The Truman’s time at sea was only about half as long as typical deployments, and the early return reflects the Pentagon’s shift toward “dynamic force employment,” a concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to make the military more responsive to emerging threats.
“The National Defense Strategy directs us to be operationally unpredictable while remaining strategically predictable,” US Navy Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said a release announcing the return to port, which he said was “a direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the US Navy.”
Grady said the carrier group “had an incredibly successful three months in the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility,” an area that stretches from pole to pole between the mid-Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
The Russian Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Severodvinsk
However, the Truman and its accompanying vessels finished their time at sea much closer to home — in the western Atlantic closer to Canada than to Europe, according to USNI News.
The cruiser Normandy and destroyers Forrest Sherman and Arleigh Burke are set to return to Norfolk in July 2018, while the destroyers Bulkeley and Farragut remain at sea, a Navy official told The Virginian-Pilot. An official with Fleet Forces Command did not return a request seeking details about what operations these ships have been performing. But anti-submarine operations have become a bigger priority for the US and its allies.
The Truman’s anti-submarine capabilities are limited to the helicopters it carries, but the strike group did deploy in early 2018 with more destroyers than usual.
Those ships are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare assets that aren’t typically used in the Atlantic, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former submariner, told USNI News in June 2018. Operating in the Atlantic would give carrier strike groups opportunities to carry out high-end exercises with partner forces, he said.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
The North Atlantic become an area of renewed focus for NATO in recent years. Alliance officials have said Russian submarine activity in the area is at levels not seen since the Cold War (though intelligence reports from the era suggest that activity is far from Cold War peaks).
“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in early 2018. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach — with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality — and they are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”
The US and its allies have put more energy and resources into anti-submarine warfare. That includes a new focus on the Cold War maritime surveillance network that covered the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — known as the GIUK Gap. The US Navy has spent several million dollars refurbishing Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland to handle the advanced P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, though the Navy has said those upgrades don’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.
Nevertheless, focusing on the GIUK Gap may fall short of the challenge NATO now faces.
For much of the Cold War, the Soviet navy lacked land-attack cruise missiles and would have had to leave its “bastion” in the Barents Sea in order to engage NATO forces, which made the GIUK Gap an important choke point at that time, according to Steven Wills, a military historian and former US Navy surface-warfare officer.
But with the development of sub-launched missiles — especially the modern Kaliber cruise missile — “Today’s Russian Navy can remain within its Barents bastion and still launch accurate attacks against ships in the Norwegian Sea and NATO land targets without leaving these protected waters,” Wills argues in an article for the Center for International Maritime Security, a professional military journal focused on naval strategy.
NATO should adopt a deterrent posture like that of the Cold War, Wills says, “but the locus of the action is much further north than Iceland.”
NATO’s decision to reestablish an Atlantic Command, to be based in Norfolk, is a welcome one, Wills writes, but that headquarters should focus on air and port facilities around the Norwegian and Greenland seas, even forward-deploying to oversee activity there. Surface vessels may need to partner with unmanned assets to cover a greater area as sea ice recedes.
Russia’s Northern Fleet is based on the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea, and a more active NATO naval presence in the area would almost certainly draw protests from Moscow, which has accused the alliance of trying to box in it and its allies in Europe. But a presence in the northern seas is necessary, according to Wills.
“The real ‘Gap’ where NATO must focus its deterrent action is the Greenland, Svalbard, North Cape line at the northern limit of the Norwegian and and Greenland Seas,” he writes. “It is again time to consider deterrent action and potential naval warfare in the ‘High North.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.
Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.
Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came tothe site emblazoned with miniature American flags.
But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)
In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used aform to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.
Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.
In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”
To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.
An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.
That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.
In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.
“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.
Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.
The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.
Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.
Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.
TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.
It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.
Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.
We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.
The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.
And that “military discount”? All of .
In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.
Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:
The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.
Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.
“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”
We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.
TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.
We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.
We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).
We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.
When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).
On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.
When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .
While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.
On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.
It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”
“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.
Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.
Every Jurassic Park film usually involves the same few things. Man creates dinosaurs. Some military-esque dude comes along and tries to use them for war or whatever. Dinosaurs eat man. Sequels inherit the Earth. It’s literally the plot of every single movie but this has us wondering — what would it be like if they just let the military-esque dude actually use the T-Rex in combat?
Sure, dinosaurs are difficult to control or whatever, but there really hasn’t been a compelling reason not to militarize these animals. Okay the entire series is basically dedicated to why it’d be a terrible idea but it’d still be fun to speculate!
If the military managed to get their very own dinosaurs and learned to control them so they didn’t go around killing everyone in sight (genetic modification or wahtever), it could look something like this:
Now only if we could find a way to attach a BRRRRRT to one we’d be set.
Air Force – Quetzalcoatus
Obviously the branch that prides itself on air superiority would have the dinosaurs from the pterosaur family. While many flying dinosaurs existed, most of them were a lot smaller than the films made them out to be.
The Air Force would definitely make use of the absolutely massive Quetzalcoatus, with its 52 ft wingspan and razor sharp beak, as the best way to pluck out enemy ground troops.
Fun fact: neither of these dinosaurs were from the Jurassic period.
Army – Triceratops
The Army has always been fond of comparing its armored units to rhinos so it would makes sense to bring in their bigger badder, late Cretaceous counterparts: the Triceratops.
It has been speculated that since the Triceratops and the t-rex were both in modern Utah during the late Cretaceous period, the two may have fought for dominance. Just the fact that they could go toe-to-toe with a t-rex makes them worthy of the Army’s attention.
If you thought Bruce from ‘Jaws’ was terrifying…
Navy – Megalodon
The only dinosaur that could match the domination of the sea is the greatest apex predator of all time – the Megalodon. It was a friggin’ massive version of the modern great white shark.
Fossil records show that this monster could be found in every corner of the world’s oceans and their jaw size meant that they could easily take down even modern whales. It would only make sense that the Navy would use them take down submarines.
A squad of Marines is basically already a pack of raptors so it makes sense.
Marine Corps – Utahraptor
The dinosaur that best suits the Marines would have to be a pack creature with a keen killer instinct. Since the real life Velociraptor would only come up to about the average human’s kneecap, this distinction goes to the often misattributed Utahraptor.
Unlike the movies, the Utahraptor (and nearly all raptors) were actually feathered – making them more like giant murder chickens than your typical lizard.
What better beast could there be to make the Coast Guard intimidating as f*ck?
Coast Guard – Mosasaurus
As much as everyone picks on the Coast Guard, they would unarguably get the best dinosaur – the Mosasaurus.
Despite being bigger than freaking buses, these things were only ever discovered around coastlines and there is little evidence that these things would have ever bothered going deeper. Just like the modern Coasties.