What happens when U.S. troops in Afghanistan take fire from Taliban fighters, fortified inside a building?
It’s pretty simple. Call in the Warthogs to bring on the BRRRRRT.
The BRRRRRT comes from the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The Avenger fires beer-bottle-sized 30 mm chunks of aluminum alloy at 3,342 feet per second.
More than one re-upload on the internet says the attack is from a Pakistani F-16, but the distinctive BRRRRRT from the GAU-8 is an unmistakeable sound.
So whatever this building is made of – concrete, cinderblocks, who knows – didn’t stand a chance. It’s no wonder everyone who calls in close air support and gets an A-10 gun run has the same reaction to the jaw-dropping power of the GAU.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer
On March 22, 2016, all of the United States’ alert intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) missileers and B-52 Stratofortress crews within the United States were crewed by women as part of Air Force Global Strike Command’s recognition of Women’s History Month.
Air Force Global Strike Command is the direct descendant unit of the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command (SAC). It holds the lineage, history and honors of SAC. Its mission is to develop and provide combat-ready forces for nuclear deterrence and global strike operations. The SAC was deactivated in 1992.
All women missileer crews from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., gather for a pre-departure briefing before heading in the 13,800 square mile missile complex to complete their 24-hour alert. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Collin Schmidt)
Following two nuclear weapons-related incidents in 2007 , former Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger (who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford) recommended a single major command under which all Air Force nuclear assets should be placed for better accountability. That new command was the Air Force Global Strike Command.
The Global Strike Command began operations in August 2009, combining the nuclear-capable strategic bomber force previously operated byAir Combat Command (ACC) and the land-based ICBM force previously operated by Air Force Space Command (AFSPC).
The all-female nuclear force is to honor Women’s History Month. 90 female missileers based out of Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming and Malmstrom AFB, Mont. completed a 24-hour alert. In addition, B-52 aircrews from Minot and Barksdale AFB, Louisiana participated by fielding all-female flight crews.
During their assignment, the all-female crews of missileers maintained a 24-hour alert shift to sustain an active alert status of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile force.
Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.
The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”
India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.
Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.
India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.
India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.
India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.
The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.
Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”
India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.
“The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.
Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.
“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.
“Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.
US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”
While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sure, you may have been in the military for years and you may have worked hard for your rank. But it may surprise you to learn that you will always be outranked by at least one of these animals, who have earned military rank, medals, and awards. And these aren’t just cuddly mascots — some of them have seen combat action!
Here are the most impressive and high-ranking military animals of all time:
1. Nils Olav
Nils Olav, a penguin, is colonel-in-chief and official mascot of Norway’s Royal Guard. In 2008, he was knighted — yes, knighted — by King Harald V. The original penguin named Nils Olav first served in 1972, and was named in honor of two great Norwegians: Nils Egelien and King Olav V. This high-ranking mascot lives in the Edinburgh Zoo, in quarters befitting his rank.
2. King Neptune
King Neptune the pig was originally just Parker Neptune. He received a promotion to King (that’s a rank, right?) during World War II when he was sold to an Illinois Navy recruiter. Although the pig was originally intended to be served at dinner, the Navy instead made him a star by promoting him to King and sending him on tour to sell war bonds. He wore a crown and a blue Navy blanket, and would stand on stage as his parts were “auctioned off” to the highest bidders. Ultimately, King Neptune helped raise over million for the Navy!
When he died in 1950, he received a Navy funeral with full military honors.
3. Sergeant Major Fosco
Sergeant Major Fosco was one of the first military working dogs to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler. Military working dogs are traditionally awarded one rank higher than that of their handler, as a reminder that the handler must always treat their animal with respect. Because Sgt. Major Fosco’s handler was a 1st Sgt., this dog bears the rank of someone who has already served a full, 20-year career!
Perhaps in dog years, that’s about right.
4. Staff Sergeant Reckless
Staff Sergeant Reckless was a Marine pack horse during the Korean War. She was purchased in Korea and carried supplies and ammunition for the Marines of 5/1 Recoilless Rifle Platoon. During one battle, she made 51 solo (unguided) trips to resupply the lines and bring wounded men to safety. During her time in service, she received a battlefield promotion to sergeant, two Purple Hearts, and a Good Conduct Medal. She was the first horse known to have participated in an amphibious landing. After the war, Reckless was brought back to America and promoted to staff sergeant. A metal statue in her honor was recently unveiled at Camp Pendleton.
5. Sergeant Chesty XIV
Sgt. Chesty XIV, named after the most highly-decorated Marine, Chesty Puller, is the current official mascot of the Marine Corps. He has his own dog-sized National Defense medal.
He also has sergeant responsibilities, like training the junior Marines in his charge. Private Chesty XV is the official Marine Corps mascot apprentice. I wonder if he causes as much trouble for his sergeant as the average private does on any given weekend?
6. Sergeant Major Jiggs
Sergeant Major Jiggs was the original Marine Corps bulldog mascot. His owner was the famous Maj. General Smedley Butler — one of the only Marines to earn two Medals of Honor. Jiggs began his career in 1922 as a private and advanced through the ranks to reach E-9. If you already have two medals of honor, you can probably give your dog any rank you want, right?
7. Lance Corporal Billy Windsor
Lance Corporal Billy Windsor the Goat is a salaried member of the British Army in the Royal Welsh Regiment. The position includes membership in the Corporal’s mess and the right to be saluted by subordinates. However, the goat was demoted to fusilier in 2006 after an unfortunate head-butting incident against a drummer in the 1st Battalion.
8. Sinbad, the Chief Dog
Sinbad, the Chief Dog, was an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 11 years and saw combat during World War II. He served on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell. His handler originally intended to give the dog to his girlfriend as a gift, but soon discovered she wouldn’t be able to keep him. The only way to keep him on board was to enlist him, so Sinbad’s pawprint was stamped onto his own unique set of enlistment papers, and he became an official member of the crew.
9. Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI
Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI, the Army’s official donkey mascot, retired after 20 years of service. The Army has long used the donkey as a mascot because it’s a reminder of how the beasts of burden have long moved Army supplies, such as howitzers and ammunition. The 2-2nd FA Battalion “Mule Soldiers” out of Fort Sill, OK, have had a mascot named Big Deuce since 1950. During his 20-year career, Master Sgt. Big Deuce VI received several promotions, but his handlers report that he was demoted twice and received several Article 15s for attempting to go AWOL and for assaulting a commissioned officer in his change of command.
10. Corporal Short Round V
Corporal Short Round V is the Army’s goat mascot, who accompanies their donkey mascot Big Deuce at official events. He recently retired, and was replaced by Private Short Round VI, who had her enlistment ceremony at Fort Sill in 2018.
11. Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Budge
Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Class Budge were the first trained therapy dogs to be deployed to Iraq in 2007. Budge eventually contracted cancer and passed away in 2010. A memorial service was held for him at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Boe was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.
12. Master Sergeant Maverick
Master Sergeant Maverick is a trained therapy dog who works with America’s VetDogs. Since 2009, he has been assigned to the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic at Eisenhauer Army Medical Center.
13. Sergeant Stubby
Sergeant Stubby the dog was adopted by soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and smuggled to France during WWI. He was trained to raise his paw in salute, which secured his place as the regimental mascot. Stubby helped his unit in the trenches by sniffing out poison gas attacks and warning of incoming artillery. He once helped capture and imprison a German spy, for which he received a medal for heroism.
Hurricane season has officially begun, and if 2020 was any indication of what is to come, the members of the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — known as the Hurricane Hunters — will be busy.
Based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, the squadron collects data about potentially dangerous weather systems from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean by flying into the literal eye of the storm.
“There’s no substitute for going directly into the storm system,” Capt. Ryan Smithies, a pilot with the 53rd, said. When NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami needs more information about a tropical storm or hurricane, it calls the squadron. They stand by ready to take the call.
While the weather industry includes numerous methods of collecting data, Smithies said many critical measurements are only attainable by taking one of the squadron’s WC-130J Super Hercules planes directly into the weather system.
Once the squadron relays the data, NOAA then issues forecasts and any necessary warnings.
Weather and families
Smithies says there’s an immediacy to the tasks and end result of the Hurricane Hunters’ daily efforts. “When we land, we can see the work that we’ve done being played out in real time” in forecasts and potentially life-saving decisions, he says.
“Our mission is something that can hit home, so that’s always one of the concerns,” Lt. Col. Mark Withee, a navigator in the 53rd and Chief of Plans for the 403rd Wing, said.
If severe weather threatens the Biloxi area and aircraft evacuations are necessary — all while the squadron continues to fly into the very weather that looms — Withee said the 53rd does all it can to have one plane ready to fly the crews back to take care of their families.
“No matter where a storm goes, it seems like there’s usually someone that has some family member that is impacted like that. It’s really something where we can see the impact both for the country as a whole but then in many cases, we have specific close family ties.”
Weather trends and the Hurricane Hunters
According to Smithies, 2020 was the third busiest season in terms of flight hours flown on mission-related flights into tropical systems.
“We evacuated the airplanes four times from Keesler, and I don’t think anybody’s been able to find a year where we did that or more,” he said.
Dr. David Nolan, chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami, says there has indeed been an uptick in the type of weather events the 53rd encounters, which helps to explain its recent demanding schedule.
“It’s pretty clear that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic has increased in the last 30 years,” he said, adding the National Hurricane Center just updated the official yearly average (which is tallied every several decades) from 11 to 12.
It’s not that simple
Although there’s an upward trend, Nolan said the increase likely isn’t related to global warming but instead to other factors in the Atlantic.
“There’s an idea that in the future, there will be more hurricanes because of global warming and that is just not correct,” he explains. “It’s not that simple.”
What is evident, he said, is that as the planet grows warmer, hurricanes are stronger and wetter and potentially more dangerous.
“As for the strength of the hurricanes, it is consistent with the science of global warming and what’s been going on this idea that hurricanes will get stronger,” said Nolan. “When the atmosphere is warmer, it holds more water, so the storm systems carry more water, and they can produce more rain.”
So, what does it mean for the Hurricane Hunters if the pace and intensity of storms continue to ramp up?
There’s no doubt that the 53rd can field any challenges that come its way, said Smithies.
“We’re going to fly what we’re tasked to fly with the resources we have available regardless of whether that means a single flight in a slow season or multiple storm systems operating at the same time.”
After all, as the pilot says, “that’s why we’re here.”
-Feature image: USAF photo by Lt. Col. Brad Boudreaux
When Robert E. Lee left the Union Army to command the Army of Northern Virginia, he was just a colonel – a far cry from being the military leader the Confederate forces needed him to be. Despite his promotion in the army of the Confederacy and his rise to prominence as the most able leader the southern states had, he still wore the rank conferred upon him by his former country.
Even as he negotiated the surrender of his new country.
Judging just by ranks, the guy holding Robert E. Lee’s chair almost matches his rank.
Every time we see the leader of the Confederate army in photos or paintings, he’s wearing the rank we’ve come to know as Lieutenant General, a design of three gold stars in the Union Army. But when the Confederacy broke away from the Union, they didn’t just adapt every American military custom and design. Much of the Confederate leadership, especially in the military, were men from West Point who had devoted their lives to military customs and courtesies. Of course, they’re going to change things up.
That was especially true for military uniforms. They took on the color gray for their uniforms in general and did keep a lot of customs held by the Union Army, but they completely revamped the officers’ rank symbols.
A general of Robert E. Lee’s stature in the Confederate Army would still be wearing gold stars, but his gold stars would have a golden wreath around them and would have a different sleeve design. Instead, the three gold stars he wore every day in Confederate uniform were the equivalent of his last rank in the Union Army, a colonel, despite being named one of the Confederacy’s first five general officers. But Lee didn’t just want to be conferred to a General’s rank.
Instead, Lee had hoped that he could be properly promoted after the Civil War, assuming the Confederacy won its independence. He wanted to be promoted to full General during peacetime, presumably so he could celebrate his new promotion properly, instead of having to push McClellan back from within six miles of Richmond, Va. though some speculate at first it was the highest rank he felt qualified to wear.
Strange reasoning for the man who would essentially take command of the entire war for the South. It’s more likely the man just preferred the simple design of the colonel’s uniform and chose to wear that because he could. Who’s going to argue with Robert E. Lee?
Marine Special Operations Command is the most junior of America’s elite commando units and while they have plenty of door kickers and shooters, they’re hurting for Leathernecks with specialized training to work in its support units.
To help source Marines for the needed support units, special operations leaders are putting on a week-long course to introduce interested Leathernecks to life as a special operations Marine and the missions they could be a part of.
The MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course is scheduled for late March and commanders hope to not only introduce the command to interested Marines but also to get a better idea of what’s out there for the specialized units to pick from.
“Combat support Marines should consider MCSOC an opportunity to ‘look before you leap.,’ ” said Col. J.D. Duke, commanding officer of the Marine Raider Support Group. “MCSOC will give interested Marines the chance to learn what a tour might look like, understand the training pipeline upon assignment, and dialogue together with MARSOC senior combat support leaders and MMEA if the career and personal/family timing is right for them.”
Any interested Marines should bring their A Game, though, as part of the intro course will include interviews, PT tests and “mental performance discussions.”
Specifically, Marine special operators are looking for people to serve as fire support specialists, communications experts; canine handlers; explosive ordnance disposal technicians; signals intelligence specialists; geospatial intelligence specialists; counterintelligence and human intelligence specialists; and all-source intelligence specialists.
The release notes that these Marines will deploy with MARSOC companies, creating a unique combination of capabilities across the entire spectrum of special operations and missions.
“Special Operations Capability Specialists deploy with Marine special operations companies and their teams, filling vital roles as the organic SOF fire support specialists, fused intelligence sections, the robust communications capability built into each company headquarters and as SOF multipurpose canine handlers,” the Corps says. “This combination of specialists and their capabilities is unique within the special operations community and allows the MSOC to conduct the full spectrum of special operations in a wide variety of operating environments.”
To be able to attend the MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course, interested Marines must meet a number of requirements, including holding the rank of corporal, being free of any pending legal or administrative proceedings and be eligible for the security clearance appropriate to their MOS.
The Pentagon is releasing a redacted version of the lengthy Niger ambush investigation that is expected to focus on the command and tactical decisions that led to the deaths of four members of the Army‘s Third Special Forces Group.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation is thousands of pages long. Pentagon officials said the report would include an animated video of what happened on the joint patrol with Nigerien troops near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger on Oct. 4, 2018.
The families of the fallen and members of Congress have already been briefed on the findings, which were expected to answer the lingering questions about how a patrol of 12 U.S. and approximately 30 Nigerien troops came to be overwhelmed by fighters from an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In a briefing shortly after the ambush, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the mission had been expected to pose little risk.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
However, the mission reportedly was changed and sent the patrol after a high-value militant linked to the offshoot called ISIS in the Greater Sahel.
Those killed in the patrol were Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
Four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the ambush near the Mali border as the patrol was returning to base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey.
Black’s father has declined to fault the decisions that led to the ambush.
He told National Public Radio, “I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.”
One of the questions that is expected to be answered is how Sgt. La David Johnson came to be separated from the rest of the patrol during the ambush. His body was not found until two days after the attack.
(U.S. Army photo)
The noontime briefing at the Pentagon on the investigation is expected to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem and Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.
Waldhauser’s chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, who led the Article 15-6 investigation, is also expected to join the briefing.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.
More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.
All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.
This could be you.
(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)
On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.
The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.
Every year, thousands of Americans in the military spend their holidays serving their country abroad. This year is no exception. In 2020, there are service members on every continent, in over 170 countries. 14,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Kuwait, and thousands more in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and countless other countries. Being away from home on Christmas can be lonely and painful, but it has a certain beauty of its own.
Tradition is a big part of the military community, and celebrating the holidays is no exception. While stationed abroad, service members do whatever they can to make the season bright. It’s never the same as being home for the holidays, but the special moments spent on base make future Christmases at home all the brighter.
Each base celebrates differently, but holiday celebrations are pretty universal.
Just after Thanksgiving, the preparations begin. Decorations vary, but soldiers do their best to deck the halls with makeshift trees, wreaths, and even lights. Some recreation programs host decorating contests with prizes to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
When the big day arrives, it’s often kicked off with a Christmas 5 or 10K. As the day goes on, you can expect to see service members going the extra mile to spread some smiles. Some might dress up as elves, Santa, or the Grinch, while others stroll about the base singing carols. It’s not all silliness, though. For those who want to, Christmas church services are usually offered all day long at the base chapel.
Christmas is one of the few days that just about everyone is invited to relax and enjoy themselves. Soldiers spend time calling family, playing games, or spending time outside if the weather allows. On some bases, it’s even warm enough to go for a celebratory snorkel!
Christmas dinner is typically a much-anticipated event. The meal is always next-level, with turkey or ham, all the fixings, and enough dessert to go around. In a touching twist, commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates at dinner as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their service. Often, the meal is accompanied by concerts or other live entertainment to raise morale. After dinner, soldiers gather for game nights or to watch classic Christmas films to bring the festivities to bring the evening to a peaceful close.
Every base is a little different, but at the end of the day, their individual traditions are part of what makes a Christmas deployment a special experience.
The people you share the season with might surprise you.
Many Americans are stationed in countries that don’t typically celebrate Christmas. One would expect to celebrate alone, but that’s not always the case. In some areas, like Bahrain, soldiers have been pleasantly surprised when the locals wished them a Happy Christmas. The culture on base often lightens up, too. Some soldiers have been surprised with pajama days, cocoa, and other luxuries that would normally be off-limits.
The holiday reminds you of your priorities.
More than anything, Christmas reminds soldiers of why they enlisted in the first place. When you sit down to Christmas dinner on deployment, you’re breaking bread with those who have vowed to protect their country, their families, and each other. You’re sacrificing your holiday to help protect your traditions back home. It’s not easy, but a Christmas spent serving your country is one you’ll never forget.
A veterans organization is suing the Pentagon for exposing private details about troops’ military service on “a truly massive scale” due to lax security on one of its websites.
The lawsuit filed by Vietnam Veterans of America says a Defense Department website “is currently exposing private details about the military service of millions of veterans to anybody at all, anonymously, for any purpose.”
The shoddy security measures allow virtually anyone to access sensitive data about veterans’ records by typing in a name and date of birth, which are easily available on the internet.
This gives “easy access to information about essentially all veterans or service members in the system” and thus violates the Federal Privacy Act, alleges the suit filed last week in federal court in New York.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website, which according to the Pentagon receives more than 2.3 billion searches a year, is mean to be used by authorized institutions like banks to confirm the active duty status that entitles service members to certain protections.
Instead, the information is available to con artists and scammers who can use it to impersonate government or other officials and gain veterans’ trust by discussing details of their service that only authorized organizations would have.
Thomas Barden, a veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the US Air Force for 21 years, found that out firsthand.
The plaintiff in the suit received a call from someone supposedly affiliated with Microsoft in March 2016. Since the caller knew details about Barden’s military service, Barden thought the government backed it. The scammer sold him software to “protect” his computer and nine months later used it to lock him out and demanded ransom.
Worried about data theft, Barden broke the hard drive into pieces and was so concerned about his privacy he threw them into different trash cans over several days.
Since then, he has continued to receive harassing phone calls from the same scammers, causing him “significant anxiety and stress,” according to the lawsuit.
Impostor fraud and identity theft aside, the group says Vietnam veterans in particular want to keep details of their military record private, having “experienced the sting of rejection and public scorn on account of their service.”
Since they draw a steady, guaranteed income from the government, veterans are an attractive target for scammers. The numbers have increased in recent years, from 58,175 complaints by veterans in 2014 to 69,801 in 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.
“Veterans are disproportionately targeted by scammers and identity thieves,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a statement.
The Pentagon “is fueling the problem by leaving veterans’ private information easily accessible on the internet (and) has refused to properly secure veterans’ information,” he said. “We are asking a court to order them to do so.”
The Defense Department has refused to make any changes since being alerted about the problems with the site, the suit says. It points out that the Defense Department could implement a strict user registration or online verification system, which are used by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
The challenges of protecting the massive databases containing military records are not new. The Department of Veterans Affairs in particular has struggled with privacy issues.
In 2014, a joint Pentagon-VA benefits site had recurring issues with private information about veterans being disclosed to random visitors. The VA was also sued over a serious privacy breach in 2006, after an employee’s laptop was stolen that contained the private data of 26 million soldiers and veterans. The VA settled for $20 million for failing to protect their sensitive data.
In other cases, veterans expecting to receive their own health care records opened their mail only to receive hundreds of pages of someone else’s private data.
“I got 256 pages of another person’s extremely confidential, extremely explicit mental health records,” Anthony McCann, a veteran in Tennessee, told a VA town hall in 2014.
The VA is the health provider with the most privacy complaints in the country, racking up 220 complaints between 2011 and 2014 according to a ProPublica analysis. In one case, an employee accessed her husband’s medical records more than 260 times. Another employee shared a veteran’s private health information with his parole officer. In yet another case, a VA employee posted details of a patient’s health records on Facebook after opening them 61 times, according to documents posted by ProPublica.
Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.
(U.S. Army Military History Institute)
World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.
“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.
(United States Army Air Forces)
The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.
(U.K. National Archives)
This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:
We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.
(U.K. National Archives)
England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.
There may be a big stick involved in President Trump’s foreign policy, but there is no speaking softly.
Asian markets tanked as news of Donald Trump’s imminent election hit newswires worldwide last night. The Australian markets lost $34 billion. In Japan, the Nikkei was down 4.8 percent, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 2.7 percent. The economic impact wasn’t all bad; gold prices rose sharply – as they often do in times of instability.
The reason for mass market fluctuations is due to the President-Elect’s protectionist rhetoric. Many times during his campaign, Trump blasted the deals made by previous administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. Some he’s simply not a fan of, others he calls a huge mistake. There’s more than one he wants to “rip up” on his first day in office.
During the presidential debate, Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement “the worst trade deal ever signed.” He said it kills American Jobs. lowers trade restrictions between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico.
NAFTA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, lowers trade restrictions between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. After the debate, Fortune Magazine agreed there was some truth to that statement, though “the truth lies somewhere in between.”
2. Trans-Pacific Partnership
Donald Trump is on the record as not being China’s biggest fan when it comes to business practices. The President-Elect is not down with TPP and was an outspoken critic long before he became a candidate.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told The New York Times the TPP would end more than 18,000 tariffs that the participating countries have placed on American exports, including autos, machinery, information technology and consumer goods, chemicals and agricultural products. It wasn’t very popular among Bernie Sanders supporters, either.
“TPP is now in the history dustbin for sure,” Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told POLITICO Pro.
3. Iran Nuclear Agreement
The deal that lifted most sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic is touted as a foreign policy achievement by the Obama administration. Trump was opposed to the deal when it was signed, calling it a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
In March 2016, he told the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC that dismantling the deal would be his top priority.
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city.
Russia celebrated the news of Trump’s victory, telling CBS News that President Putin is ready to restore full diplomatic relations with the United States. Trump hinted during his campaign that Europe was not investing enough in its own defense and that the U.S. might not defend its allies so quickly.
NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg made a statement Nov. 9, reminding Europeans – and the incoming President – that the only time the collective defense clause was invoked was because of an attack on the United States.
6. Gulf States
This is one of the most important relationships the U.S. has with allies anywhere in the world. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, a Gulf Cooperation Council member. The Fifth Fleet defends the Strait of Hormuz and keeps international trade flowing from the region. Bahrain’s close partner Saudi Arabia has been the target of much of Trump’s criticism.
In August 2015, candidate Trump said he “wasn’t a big fan” of the country and that the United States had paid too much to “back them up.” He believes Saudi Arabia “is going to be in big trouble pretty soon and they’re going to need help. … We get nothing for it and they’re making a billion dollars a day.”
Trump once remarked that he wanted to create a Middle East “safe zone” for refugees and migrants – and that the Gulf States would pay for it.
7. South Korea and Japan
To counter the rising strength of China in the region, candidate Trump announced his intention to maintain the U.S. “rebalance” of power in the region but increase the number of ships in the U.S. Navy from 274 to 350.
To pay for manpower and equipment increases, Trump intends to talk with Tokyo and Seoul about ways they can help pay for it. Some experts fear this may shake the certainty other countries have as U.S. allies, prompting them to seek their own nuclear weapons as a deterrent from Chinese aggression.