Remember those little green Army men your brother kept in a large bucket that you could only play with while he was at basketball practice? YouTube user Michael Akkerman remembers, and he created an epic battle with the little toys that tells the tale of a Green Army offensive against the Tan Army.
The battle, embedded above, is mostly shot using stop motion, but makes extensive use of what appears to be CGI when weapons fire and larger rounds explode. This becomes gnarly when troops are hit by enemy fire and melted plastic splatters across the ground like thick blood.
The combat includes armored units, artillery, and combat engineers, but it focuses on the infantrymen making up the bulk of the advance against the Tan Army’s prepared defenses, which includes barbed wire, trenches, and bunkers. Oddly, these prepared defenses include a lot of snipers who, for some reason, fire almost exclusively from guard towers.
As a Green infantryman says at 9:15, “gosh, that is a bad sniper.”
While the military details aren’t perfect (the artillery is always brought up into direct fire positions and never once fires an indirect shot), it’s still a lot of fun to see the combined arms invading force try to deal with the thick defensive lines of the Tan forces.
The director keeps the bulk of his shots close to the army men on the march, making it feel like you’re in the thick grass with the men. Occasional wide shots give an idea of the scope of the battle as dozens of men on both sides clash over whatever ideological difference the hordes of plastic soldiers may have.
Be prepared for some gut-wrenching moments. Green forces are no boy scouts, and they aren’t above committing a few atrocities to secure a Tan-free future. Playing with army men was the best, wasn’t it?
Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”
Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.
They were trained for this.
They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.
That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.
Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.
Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.
“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.
The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.
The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.
It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).
This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.
Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.
You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
By December 1944, Allied armies had reached the western border of Germany itself. The US Army’s 99th Infantry Division, recently arrived in Europe and untested in combat, was assigned to the northern “shoulder” of the Allied front line in the Ardennes Forest.
The three regiments of the 99th ID—the 393rd, 394th, & 395th Infantry Regiments—were thinly spread across this frigid but quiet portion of the front. A few miles to the east lay the Siegfried Line, the enemy’s final defensive line guarding the German heartland.
99th Infantry Division soldiers putting up a winterized squad hut.
(Source: U.S. Army)
The 3rd Battalion of the 395th Infantry Regiment (3/395), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, occupied the town of Höfen on the German border. Höfen, along with the nearby town of Monschau, was strategically vital because it sat on elevated terrain overlooking an important road junction.
Although 3/395 had only 600 men to defend a large area, they had been told that the German army, or Wehrmacht, was no longer capable of major offensive operations and that their winter in the Ardennes would be a quiet one.
99th Infantry Division vehicles en route to the battle zone.
(Source: U.S Army)
Unknown to the Allies, the Germans were preparing a surprise counter-offensive through the Ardennes with the goal of splitting the Allied armies and recapturing the Belgian port city of Antwerp. The Germans planned to use massed infantry assaults to punch holes in the American lines, after which the feared German tanks, or panzers, would race through these gaps while the winter weather kept Allied planes grounded. Höfen-Monschau was vital to the operation’s success because the nearby road junctions would enable rapid movement of tanks.
This northern shoulder of the American line where the 99th ID was entrenched would be the hinge on which the German assault would pivot northwest toward Antwerp. The Germans were counting on something else, too—they knew that this sector was thinly manned by untested troops.
German Panzer tanks en route to the Ardennes.
(Source: US Army)
In the pre-dawn hours of December 16th, Hitler’s final major offensive began. The ferocious assault caught the Allies off-guard and the rapid German advance famously caused a “bulge” on Allied maps.
The Germans were operating under a tight timetable, however, and the assault’s center of gravity—the 6th Panzer Army—had only one day to breach the 99th ID’s line. Any delay would jeopardize the plan to cross the Meuse River and advance on Antwerp before the skies cleared and the Allies regained their balance.
German troops pass burning American equipment during the Ardennes offensive.
(Source: US Army)
The German pre-dawn artillery bombardment on December 16th destroyed 3/395’s communication wires at Höfen, but the stunned soldiers soon witnessed an even more ominous sight: enemy searchlights, reflecting off the dense clouds, illuminated the snowy open ground east of Höfen. Through this eerie artificial moonlight, the 326th Volksgrenadier Division advanced on 3/395’s position.
This, however, was the moment that Hitler’s master plan collided headfirst with American fortitude. 3/395 greeted the Volksgrenadiers with a punishing hail of bullets, mortars, and artillery. The Germans, moving across illuminated open ground without cover, fell by the hundreds against the murderous American fire. Some toppled directly into US foxholes as American troops engaged them at point-blank range. Those Germans who made it into the town itself were quickly mopped up. Höfen remained in American hands—for now.
American troops from the 290th Regiment near Amonines, Belgium.
(Source: US Army)
Despite mauling the Germans on their first attempt to take Höfen, 3/395’s situation was grim. The battalion was badly outnumbered and nearly surrounded.
To make circumstances worse, just beyond the bloodied-but-not-beaten Volksgrenadiers waited the tanks of the 6th Panzer Army. It was not just the lives of 3/395 at stake; a German breakthrough here would have enabled the Sixth Panzer Army to outflank the 2nd ID and 99th ID and achieve a direct route to the Meuse River.
Location of the 99th ID sector (red box) on a map of the “Bulge”.
(Source: US Army)
The Germans were not finished with Butler’s men, either. After failing to capture Monschau on the battle’s second day, the 326th Volksgrenadier Division turned its attention back to Höfen on December 18th. The Germans threw wave after wave of infantry, and a unit of panzers, at the town. The situation became so dire that Butler deliberately called in artillery on his unit’s own position to prevent them from being overrun—one of six times this would occur at Höfen.
When the Germans finally broke through 3/395’s lines and established a foothold in the town, the Americans recaptured the buildings by firing anti-tank guns through the walls. Later that night, another enemy assault was similarly unsuccessful. One Wehrmacht officer captured at Höfen asked his interrogators which unit had defended the town. When told it was 3/395, the prisoner replied, “It must be one of your best formations.”
Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, commander of 3/395.
(Source: US Army)
The Germans would never take Höfen, nor most of their other ambitious objectives in the Ardennes, due in large part to the soldiers of 3/395 and the 99th ID as a whole. The failure to breach the 99th ID’s sector stalled the entire German advance and a decisive breakthrough was never achieved. 3/395, soon to be nicknamed “Butler’s Blue Battlin’ Bastards”, was one of the only US Army units that did not retreat in the opening days of the battle.
For their actions the battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation which read, in part: “outnumbered 5 to 1, [3/395] inflicted casualties in the ratio of 18 to 1. Despite fatigue, constant enemy shelling, and ever-increasing enemy pressure, [they] guarded a 6,000-yard front and destroyed 75 percent of three German infantry regiments.”
Captain Ned Nelson, veteran of 3/395 and the battle at Höfen.
Whenever it comes time for troops to head out to the field, their leaders should always issue a mandated packing list. These lists cover the necessities, like three sets of uniforms, sleeping gear, personal hygiene kits, an e-tool, and a poncho. Occasionally, it includes weather gear, despite the fact that it’s the off-season (think winter thermals in July), or a gas mask so the lieutenant can say they did “familiarization training.” But what you really need is useful gear. We’ve got the list for you.
Most younger troops will just follow that list to a T — exactly what the packing list requires and not a single ounce more. So, you want to earn the bragging rights of “enduring the field like a grunt?” If so, snivel gear and junk food are nice — but not useful.
These items, however, aren’t on the list, and you’re going to get laughed at for not having them.
1. Extra under-layer clothing
Three days in the field? One pair of socks per day sounds logical — and then you step in a puddle and have to wear tomorrow’s socks. Suddenly, you’re out of socks for the last day.
If the list says bring three, bring five. If it says bring ten, bring fifteen.
2. Sewing kit
If you split open the crotch on your uniform, you’ll need to toss them — unless you have a sewing kit and know how to use it.
Rips don’t even need to be fixed perfectly — just enough to get you through the field.
3. Some way to mark your stuff
One downside of issuing a standard uniform to an entire unit is that, if you lose track of your green duffle bag, you’ll need to open each one to find yours. When you’re hiking through the backwoods of your installation, remembering which bag in a sea of green duffle bags is yours is non-trivial.
Make it easier for yourself and mark your stuff. You don’t need to make it fancy or elaborate. Many units spray paint the bottoms of their bags with troop’s information on it. Even a simple piece of cloth tied to a handle will make your stuff stand out.
4. Your own toilet paper
There’s an old joke in the Army about military-issued toilet paper. We call it, “Sergeant Major’s toilet paper.” It’s rough as hell and takes sh*t from no man.
If you’re in the forests of Fort Benning, fine — pretend like you’re a badass and use some leaves. If you’re in the deserts of Fort Irwin, well — you’ll need it.
5. A watch
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll still need to be able to tell time in the field. Super useful gear. Unless you’re in a super POG unit that has power outlets available in-tent, your cell phone won’t have enough charge to constantly tell you the time.
Grab a cheapo watch before you head out — nothing fancy, nothing special and preferably with a cloth wristband.
6. Waterproofing bags
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you go to Fort Irwin’s NTC. Whenever you get there, it’ll pour the entirety of its five inches of yearly average rain the moment you arrive.
Grab a few plastic storage bags for socks and toilet paper and maybe a trash bag to cover your uniforms. If you need it, awesome. If it doesn’t rain, it’s not like the weight of a trash bag and knowing you have useful gear is going to burden you.
*Bonus* If you smoke, extra cigarettes
If you are a smoker, you should know how many you go through in an average day. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be in the field — then double it.
Don’t be that guy who bugs the same person for a cigarette time and time again. You only get like two or three tops before you owe that dude another pack when you’re out of the field. If you’re the only one to remember this rule, everyone will owe you big time.
Victoria Reyes is a talented 11-year-old military child, who showcased her artful creations in her first exhibition, where she left people in attendance in such an awe that a few of them commissioned private artworks.
While walking through the exhibition room in Tampa, Florida, where artwork by Victoria Reyes was being showcased, attendees couldn’t help be drawn to the colorful representations of Japanese anime and the meticulous attention to details that had clearly gone into each piece. It didn’t take long for some of the people in attendance to commission the talented artist with private pieces, which she was happy to take on.
Many of the great painters that have made art history began showing promising talent at a young age — Picasso, for example, was only nine when he completed his first painting. But the key figure behind most of these talented artists was usually a parent who had been able to first notice their child’s unusual creative abilities. In Picasso’s case, it was his father who noticed his talent two years before the young painter completed his first work of art.
Maxine Reyes, Victoria’s mother, first noticed her daughter’s talent when Victoria was only three years old. “I noticed how well she could draw people,” Maxine said, “and I remember how I used to just draw straight lines to make the body of a person. The level of detail that Victoria added to her figures was out of the norm.”
A talented singer who entertained not only troops in the Middle East, but also NBA teams and even a U.S. President, Maxine is an artist in her own right and a retired military member who served for over 20 years in the Air Force and the Army. “She wasn’t doing the normal scribble scrabble,” Maxine said, “and that’s why I encouraged her to nurture her talent.”
Art as a coping mechanism
Victoria, who is also a singer like her mother and a talented piano player, began finding comfort in drawing, especially during the challenging times military life inevitably brings. When her active duty Army father, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, had to leave home for work for an extended period of time, Victoria found art to be a coping mechanism.
Given how therapeutic she finds drawing to be for her, Victoria dedicates most of her spare time to making art. “I remember watching Japanese anime shows on TV,” Victoria said, “and I was surprised by how detailed those cartoons were.” Inspired by what she saw, the young artist would eventually place that same level of attention to details to her own art, which is what made her parents take notice and reflect on how they could support her.
Supporting and encouraging young talent
“When I saw her drawings,” Maxine revealed, “they looked like something I would buy at an art show.” An art lover like her husband, Maxine was able to appreciate her daughter’s talent and support it from the very beginning. “My husband and I decided that we were going to encourage her and invest in her talent so that one day she will be able to live out her dream.”
That was the reason why Victoria’s parents planned a surprise birthday party for their talented daughter. “I printed her best artwork on canvas and turned her birthday party into her very first art show.”
Showcasing her artwork brought Victoria enormous success, and she was happy with the outcome, although she admits that, “I was a bit shy at first.” The talented military child is committed to pursuing her dream and working on her talents so that one day she can achieve her goal of becoming a professional artist.
If interested in purchasing Victoria Reyes’s artwork or getting in touch with her to commission a private piece, please visit www.victoriareyes.com or @iamvictoriareyes.
Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?
Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.
The usually-better options include:
Leave the money in your TSP account.
Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.
The rarely-better options include:
Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.
Leave the balance in your TSP account
Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.
“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”
Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.
Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.
Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement
Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!
Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.
Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan
Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)
Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.
“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”
Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum
Pros: Cash in hand.
Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.
Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity
Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.
Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.
This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.
Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.
“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.
Russia and the Syrian regime warned the US in early September 2018 that they planned to carry out counterterrorism operations near a key US garrison in southeastern Syria known as al-Tanf, where several hundred Marines have been stationed since at least 2016.
In fact, the al-Tanf garrison has long drawn the ire of Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime — but all they’ve been able to do is complain about it.
The US is “gathering the remnants of the Islamic State at this base in order to later send them wage war on the Syrian army,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in late September 2018, according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
“According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed [at al-Tanf],” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told Russia’s Pravda in late 2017. “[Terrorists] are effectively training there.”
Iran’s Press TV also cited Gerasimov’s quote a June 2018 article titled, “US forces training terrorists at 19 camps inside Syria: Russian expert.”
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem
Without any real evidence, US adversaries have lobbed many rhetorical attacks against the US forces for supposedly harboring or training terrorists at al-Tanf.
Damascus and Russian state-owned media even claimed in June 2018 that the US was preparing a “false flag” chemical attack “identical to the kind that took place in Douma” at al-Tanf.
“The U.S. led Coalition is here to defeat ISIS, first and foremost, and that is the objective of the presence in at al-Tanf,” US Army Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Business Insider in an email.
“No U.S. troops have trained ISIS and that is just incorrect and misinformation, it is truly amazing some people think that,” Ryan said.
The US has trained Syrian rebels at al-Tanf, namely a group called Maghawir al Thawra, which “is fairly secular by regional standards and has been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
Members of Maghawir al Thawra and a US Army soldier repair a water well in an-Tanf.
But the “claim that the US is training ISIS and like-minded groups at al Tanf is certainly absurd,” Lamrani said.
“To the Russians and Iranians, almost any group fighting against the Syrian government can be labeled a terrorist group,” Lamrani said.
So why do Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime care so much about this garrison?
“I’d say that the primary reasons why Iran cares about it so much is, again, it blocks the Bagdhad-Damascus highway,” Lamrani said, which Tehran uses to transport weapons to Damascus, where the Syrian regime is based.
“The reason they want the land route is that it’s easier to bring [weapons] across land in greater quantities, and the shipping route is very vulnerable to Israeli interception, and the air route is expensive and often gets hit by Israeli airstrikes,” Lamrani added.
Moscow, on the other hand, is upset about al-Tanf because “it’s the last area in Syria where the United States is involved with rebels on the ground that are not Syrian Democratic Forces,” Lamrani said.
The Russians and Syrian regime have “open channels” with the SDF, and want to negotiate — not fight — with them, Lamrani added.
But Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime’s ire might go beyond just styming the flow of weapons to Damascus and training rebels.
“There’s a history at that garrison at al-Tanf,” Max Markusen, associate director and an associate fellow of the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.
“I think that the Syrian regime, the Russians and Iranians, would see it as a [symbolic] victory if the United States pulled out of there than just sort of tactical level objectives,” Markusen said, adding that there’s much resentment for the US having trained rebels at al-Tanf too.
But they’re not foolish enough to kinetically force US troops out because “the costs of escalation are too high,” Markusen said.
So they’re relegated to discrediting the al-Tanf garrison.
Going forward, “we will continue to see an escalation of rhetoric,” Markusen said, but “I don’t there’s going to be a major outbreak of conflict.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.
It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.
It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.
“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.
He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.
His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.
“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”
Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.
Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia
In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.
“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”
For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.
In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.
“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.
While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.
When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.
He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.
His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.
“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”
Balad Air Base, Iraq
Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.
As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.
While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.
“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.
While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.
“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.
With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.
“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.
Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.
“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.
When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.
“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.
“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”
Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.
PTSD, the daily struggle
“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”
In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”
In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.
“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.
To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.
“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”
On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.
“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.
“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”
Historically, all empires either fall or morph into some other empire… and then fall. While we don’t use the term “empire” to describe nation-states that much anymore, some countries are still able to project power outside their borders. they project power globally (like the United States) or regionally (like Iran). But when it comes to having to defend their home turf, some countries are just not going to roll over for any reason.
These are those countries.
This is America.
1. The United States of America
We all saw this one coming, so let’s get it out of the way early and start with what I know many are thinking: any invader of the United States isn’t facing just the U.S. military, they’re facing all 330 million Americans. Yes, there are more weapons than people in the U.S. (and that’s just considering the guns we know about). Americans are even allowed to design and build their own weapons in many states, without ever having to register. So who knows what they’re packing. This also means every American with an arsenal can recruit and train their own band of Wolverines.
This is just Los Angeles county.
Even if an invader managed to take control of the civilian population — and that’s a big if — they’d still have to get through the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world first, all recruited from the very violently pro-America people I was just telling you about.
Then they have to hold on to that territory without getting killed and without the locals organizing against them. Too bad many major American cities are already organized. And armed. And ready to go killing again once the war dies down a bit. We call them street gangs.
Me either. But you feel free to fight the next Stalingrad if you want.
Albuquerque, Houston, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Baltimore, New York City — whether the invasion moves from east to west or west to east, there are a lot of pressure points invaders need to secure before moving on. Which brings up another point: America is huge.
Our four mainland time zones contain seven different climate regions, not to mention everything from high mountains to marshland, swamps to deserts, and in some places, a lot of flat nothing. Just going across the mighty Mississippi River without a bridge is enough to kill off a good chunk of an army while the residents of East St. Louis are using it as target practice.
When the invaders get out of the actual geographical features of the United States (where roving bands of armed American militias are waiting in ambush), the invader will enter some of the largest cities in the world, three of which are in the top 100 in terms of population, and many are full of the aforementioned gangs and violent extremist groups.
Ever look up at New York City buildings and just imagine what it would be like to have to invade, conquer, and keep a city so populous and so large in size and scale?
This one goes well beyond the myth of “General Winter” (although that would definitely be a factor for most invading countries). Russia projects power regionally but its armed forces (as I mentioned before in other articles) is not as great as Putin is hyping it up to be lately.
If invaded, however, Russia doesn’t have to project anything and its legendary toughness can really bloom, even in the middle of the freezing Russian winter. Invading Russia, as any student of history knows, is a terribly difficult task. When Napoleon invaded in 1812, the Russian people took casualties, to be sure, but what really suffered was Russia’s towns, cities, farms, and other infrastructure — all of it destroyed by Russians.
Which is called Volgograd now. And invaders will have to take this city, too. Good luck with that.
That’s right, Russians would rather destroy their own country than leave it for any invader. And if you’re thinking that was a long time ago and how modern Russians might have different sensibilities, remember they did that when the Nazis invaded in World War II. From there, the fighting only got more brutal. So any invader has to remember that they’re likely fighting every single Russian – across 11 times zones.
Did you catch that? There are 11 time zones in Russia, the largest country by land mass. If that wasn’t bad enough, Russia also contains every single climate type there is (yes, Russia has a rain forest. Look it up). If that wasn’t enough, they will likely have to fight every ex-Soviet client state around Russia’s borders, too. Many of them are still very loyal to Russia and would take up arms to fight for their Russian friends. This only extends the range and variety of people, climate, and geography to conquer. It means everything from the deserts of Kazakhstan, to the mountains and forests of the Caucasus region, and to the frozen shores of the Black and Caspian Seas
The steppes and tundras of Central Asia are not a forgiving place and just like the Americans who would take up arms against an invader, the Russian and pro-Russian people living in these areas will too. These are hardy, gun-toting, skilled hunters who have no compulsion about killing an invader, having grown up with their parents’ and grandparents’ stories about fighting the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis.
Fighting which included the deadliest fighting in the history of human warfare (which the Russians won) at Stalingrad.
“Come at me bro.”
Despite what every successive American general would have you believe for the past 17 years, victory in Afghanistan is not just around the corner.
Every invading empire who thought victory was just around the corner in Afghanistan really just helped contribute to Afghanistan’s legacy as “The Graveyard of Empires.” This includes the current sole superpower in the world, the United States, the only other superpower to ever exist, the Soviet Union, and the largest empire ever assembled by any state in the world, the British Empire at its height.
Also known as the original Brexit.
What makes Afghanistan so difficult to capture and keep is first and foremost its terrain. It’s a giant bowl of desert surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Any army an invader can’t destroy could just fade away into the mountains and lick their wounds until the next fighting season came. In modern times, the high peaks negate the advantage of armor and tanks, just as it negated the advantage of heavy cavalry in earlier times.
The United States is a viable fighting force in Afghanistan because of its logistical advantage. Where the U.S. can get supplies and troops in and out relatively easily, the attacking British in 1839 had a much less reliable system. That’s why only one man of 16,000 troops and camp followers returned.
That’s why it’s remembered as the “Disaster in Afghanistan.”
Just Palaw me.
The most important reason no one can conquer Afghanistan is because any invader has to completely subdue the population. The whole population. And these people are as diverse as it gets. Pashtun, Turkmen, Baloch, Palaw, Tajik, and Uzbek are jut a few of the ethnic groups in the country. Even after 17 years in the country, many Americans wouldn’t pick up on the fact that one of those ethnic groups I just mentioned is actually a rice dish.
Put aside Taliban or Mujaheddin loyalty for a moment and imagine the life of a regular Afghan man. Their clan, their tribe, their unit, their sheikh, their ethnicity, their religion, maybe their provincial or central government? And when you do take into account their loyalties to extremist groups, you have to factor in the group, that unit, and the shadow government. That’s 12 potential loyalties right there. Imagine trying to subdue 34 million of them, because you have to if you invade Afghanistan.
Defeating those people in pitched battles didn’t work, ask the British. Massacring them also didn’t work, ask the Soviets. The American nation building strategy isn’t coming along either.
And China didn’t even try to equip their soldiers back then. Today, they would have rifles and shoes — and maybe food.
Did your invading army plan on fighting one billion people? Because that is what is likely to happen when invading China. The most populous country in the world now boasts 1.3 billion-plus people. For the uninitiated or bad at math (or both), that means they have almost the entire population of the United States plus a billion. Having written these wargaming posts for a few years now, I know that many will tell me to consider that this doesn’t mean China has a skilled or fearsome force of ground troops and that all they’ve ever tactically perfected on a modern battlefield is human wave attacks.
Imagine a billion people running at your unit.
While these one billion Chinese people likely don’t have their own arms, it wouldn’t take long for the planned central bureaucracy to start handing out weapons to form a unified front against an invader. There’s an old U.S. military saying: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. So it may sound like a throwing a few million soldiers at an invader is stupid, but it’s quite the human wave and it will likely work. So even if the numbers of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir are repeated and it takes ten Chinese divisions to repel one Marine Division, the Marines will need to send 25 divisions just to establish a beachhead.
Enjoy that iPhone.
The fun doesn’t stop just because the invader made it ashore. China is as massive as the United States with a diverse climate and diverse geographical features. It’s surrounded by extreme weather and oceans on all sides, so invaders will have to be prepared for the impassable Gobi Desert and the jungles of Southeast Asia, not to mention the mountainous, snowy Himalayan regions which will make air support difficult.
If invading troops aren’t massacred along the way by bands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, then they still get to contend with a variety of tropical diseases along with the diseases that come from overpopulation and pollution.
This is just in fighting a conventional war. The Chinese are the masters of ripping off foreign technology, so an invading army would have to assume that the country they’re invading will also have all the technological prowess of the United States – and with its 750-million-plus person manpower (assuming they didn’t die in a human wave) and strong economy, they’re ready to grind on for a long time.
This is probably the only entry on the list many readers didn’t predict. But on its own, India is a formidable place to invade.
Remember that India has always lived in a rough neighborhood.
To the north and east lay harsh Himalayan mountain passes and arid deserts makes up roughly half of India’s northwest regions. In the southwest, India is wet and tropical, limiting the best places to land an ocean-born invasion force.
That is, if you ever get to land an invasion force on the subcontinent. Part of India’s major naval strategy is to flood her territorial waters with enough submarines to sink both enemy warships and enemy landing craft while strangling sea lanes of enemy shipping. This tactic has been in place for a long time, since before China’s foreign policy went from one of “peaceful rise” to “crouching tiger.”
And Gurkhas. They have Gurkhas.
Since the British left India in 1947, they’ve had to deal with Pakistan on a few occasions and even went to war with China once. Ever since, China and Pakistan have only grown closer so India’s entire defense strategy has to be predicated on the idea of fighting a war on two fronts — and they’re ready for it.
Fighting in India is not a small matter as any Indian general will probably tell you. The height of the Himalayan mountains makes air support very difficult, even impossible at times. India can’t rely exclusively on one benefactor, meaning it can’t just choose to be closer to the USA or Russia. India cares about Pakistan and China and will accept any tech or gear that helps them win that war. As such, their near-limitless manpower, religious fervor, and billion-plus population would make them a formidable opponent on any front.
Every November the halls of the Pentagon are torn apart in one of the biggest and oldest rivalries in college sports: the Army-Navy Game. While the outcome of the game may no longer affect who will win the College Football National Championship, it will affect the interpersonal relationships within the Department of Defense for days, maybe weeks after. It also may affect who gets the biggest prize of all, The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy and a trip to the White House to have it presented personally by the President of the United States.
So yeah, it’s about a lot more than pride.
The game is a spectacle, full of more than 100 years of traditions, pranks, and the best military showmanship the two service academies can muster.
Ranging from the highly-polished, well-produced masterpieces like the video above to simple iPhone-shot music videos, West Pointers and Annapolis midshipmen shoot, edit, and publish numerous videos about how their school is going to beat the other school, how their school is superior to the other school, and how their culture is more fun. It’s not just students and staff, either. All over the world, troops and graduates make their own videos and upload them to YouTube, DVIDS, and anywhere else someone might see their work of art.
The prisoner exchange
For one semester every year, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy choose select members of their classes to attend the rival school. At the beginning of the annual Army-Navy Game, these students are returned to their proper academy. The swap at the beginning of the game is known as “The Prisoner Exchange.”
The march on
If you’re into watching military formations on the march as a military band plays on, be sure to catch the pre-game events before the Army-Navy kickoff. One of these events is called “The March On,” and features the entire student bodies of both service academies marching in formation across the open field. It’s really quite a sight.
The Army-Navy Game always starts with a huge show of military power, either in the form of Blue Angels flyovers, Army helicopters, the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Navy’s Blue Angels, or who-knows-what-else. This pre-game display is always an awesome sight.
Every year, both Army and Navy take the field in their newest digs, ones designed to honor a part of their individual histories or traditions. Past uniforms have honored Army World War II Paratroopers, the 10th Mountain Division, and types of Navy ships.
When the Commander-In-Chief is present at the Army-Navy Game, he has traditions of his own he needs to follow. Of course, the POTUS is the person in charge and can do whatever he wants, but is always expected to cross the field at the 50-yard-line at halftime and watch the game from the other side, a tradition dating back to President Woodrow Wilson.
Honoring the fallen
No matter who wins or who loses, both teams will not leave the field without singing both schools’ alma maters. The winners go to the losing team’s fans and sing to them, taking the sting out of such a rivalry loss (at least a little bit). Then the two teams will sing the winners’ song.
Turkey will carry out new military operations along its borders after its two previous offensives into Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on May 6, 2018, as he announced his manifesto for June 2018’s snap elections.
Turkey is now carrying out an offensive into northern Syria’s Afrin region against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish militants waging an insurgency on Turkish soil.
The Afrin campaign is Turkey’s second cross-border operation into Syria during the seven-year-old civil war. The first, dubbed “Euphrates Shield”, targeted Islamic State and Kurdish fighters further east than Afrin, and was completed in early 2017.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey’s operations along its southern border would continue “until not a single terrorist is left.”
“We will not give up on constricting terrorist organizations. In the new period, Turkey will add new ones to the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in order to clear its borders,” Erdogan said.
“We shattered the terror corridor being formed on our southern border with these operations. Our soldiers, who lastly wrote an epic in Afrin, are ready for new missions,” he said.
Erdogan has previously threatened to push its Afrin offensive against the YPG further east to Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed, risking confrontation between the NATO allies.
Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and has been infuriated with U.S. support for the militia.
On May 4, 2018, the US also announced details of a proposed $717 billion annual defense policy bill, which included measures to temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey.
On May 6, 2018, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “Turkey will absolutely retaliate” if the US halts the weapons sales, adding that the US “needs to let go of this.”
But Cavusoglu also said on May 6, 2018, that Ankara and Washington have reached an understanding on a roadmap in Syria’s Manbij in which the militants will leave the area, and that the details were being discussed with the new U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
Erdogan has also said Turkey could carry out a joint offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq with Baghdad. Cavusoglu said the operation was still on the agenda.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A government shutdown can bring questions and uncertainty. In an effort to best support you, official answers to common questions associated with a government shutdown are provided below.
Will pay be affected? If the lapse in appropriations extends past Dec. 28, 2018, military personnel may experience a delay to their regularly scheduled December end-of-month paycheck for the period ending on Dec. 31, 2018. Salaries earned during and after the lapse in appropriations will be paid to military members once an appropriation or a continuing resolution is passed. Monthly allotments will be deducted as scheduled. All personnel are encouraged to verify automated transactions with their financial institutions to ensure they have sufficient funds or make alternate arrangements, as needed.
Retiree pay is subject to the availability of unobligated balances. Questions regarding retiree pay can be directed to the Pay Personnel Center’s retiree and annuitant services branch by calling 1-800-772-8724 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) is available during the lapse in appropriations.
Today, CGMA offers aid to the entire Coast Guard family: active duty and retired Coast Guard military personnel, members of the Coast Guard Reserve, Coast Guard civilian employees, Coast Guard auxiliarists, and public health officers serving with the Coast Guard. In general, assistance is needs based and provided through counseling, financial grants, interest-free loans, and other related means. More information about CGMA may be found at http://www.cgmahq.org/.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle awaits a passenger transfer off the Coast of Miami June 14, 2014. The Eagle served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946.
(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney, U.S. Coast Guard)
Will Coast Guard Child Development Centers (CDCs) remain open? It is anticipated that Coast Guard CDCs will remain open. Please contact your local CDC or Coast Guard base for guidance.
Will the Coast Guard child care subsidy be impacted? Child care subsidy processing may be delayed.
How is Coast Guard travel affected? Military members should contact their command for guidance prior to traveling or using their government travel cards.
Will Coast Guard Exchange locations remain open? Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) locations will remain open to serve all authorized patrons, unless access to facilities is limited due to other potential closures associated with a government shutdown. Please contact your Coast Guard Exchange location for verification.
Is CG SUPRT available during a government shutdown? CG SUPRT will not be impacted by a government shutdown. Services can be requested by calling 855-CG SUPRT (247-8778), visiting www.CGSUPRT.com (select “My CG SUPRT Site” and enter “USCG” as the password), or through the CG SUPRT mobile app (Login ID: USCG).
Are Coast Guard work-life staff members and programs available during a government shutdown? Work-life regional managers and sexual assault response coordinators will remain available during the government shutdown.
Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.
Gunmen have launched an attack on an Afghan intelligence training center in Kabul, officials say.
Police officer Abdul Rahman said on Aug. 16, 2018, that the attackers were holed up in a building near the compound overseen by the National Security Directorate in a western neighborhood of the Afghan capital.
He said the gunmen were shooting at the facility and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the assault.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers were firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said three or four attackers took part in the assault and two of them were killed.
He said Afghan forces had cleared the building from the basement all to the fourth floor and were battling gunmen on the fifth floor during the early evening.
A rocket-propelled grenade (on the left) and RPG-7 launcher. For use, the thinner cylinder part of the rocket-propelled grenade is inserted into the muzzle of the launcher.
There was no immediate word on the number of casualties among civilians and security forces nor any immediate claim of responsibility, which comes a day after a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul killed 34 people and wounded 56 others.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group on Aug. 16, 2018, claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.