What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia's newest tank - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Crew members of a US Abrams tank were giving me a tour of their tank on the sandy training grounds of Fort Bliss when I asked them what they thought about Russia’s next-generation T-14 Armata tank.

At first, they were a little taken aback and looked at each other as if they weren’t sure whether they should answer. But they agreed to give their opinions when I said I wouldn’t publish their names.

“T-14’s got a three-man crew,” one specialist said, sitting behind the .50 caliber gun atop the Abrams. “All the crew’s in the hole, so it sounds pretty safe.”


Also read: Russia claims its T-14 Armata tank can run on Mars, because why the hell not

The T-14 is part of Russia’s new Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is based on a single chassis that can be used for other Armata vehicles, such as the T-15 (or Terminator 3) and Koalitsiya-SV.

It’s also reportedly equipped with an autoloader for its 125mm high-velocity cannon, compared to the Abrams’ 120mm gun.

And the specialist zeroed in on the autoloader.

“You looked around in here,” he said. “You see how sandy it is? You need something that’s going to work in all terrain.”

“Generally, I think the Russians like to build things that — like the AK, you can throw it through the mud and it’ll keep shooting,” the specialist said. “I feel like with the T-14, they got their eye off the ball, trying to be fancy.”

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

The specialist also said that a crew member can load the cannon faster than current mechanical autoloaders.

“So, what’s the point of an autoloader?” I asked.

“If the ammunition is so heavy, and so long — it’s a small turret here,” the specialist said. “The T-14 has gotten around that by having an entirely automated turret. What happens though, if something goes wrong in the middle of battle, and somebody’s gonna have to get up in there, get out of their position? I don’t know.”

“Let’s say there’s a misfire,” another crewmember interjected. “How much work would it take to get that machine open, get that breach open, and get down in there?”

Related: This new, more deadly version of the M1 Abrams tank is on its way to the fight

I then asked what they thought about Moscow’s goal of eventually making the T-14 a completely unmanned tank.

“Maintenance-wise, an unmanned tank is going to be really difficult,” the specialist said. “All I do is maintain tanks … and these tanks still go down.”

Despite unveiling the tank in 2015, Russia has still not mass-produced the T-14 due to the high cost of the platform. Moscow initially said that it would produce 2,300 T-14s by 2020, but late last year said it would only produce 100 T-14s by 2020.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Constant B-52 flights rattle China in disputed waters

The US military has stepped up to regularly challenge Beijing’s dominance in the South China Sea and has achieved one of its main missions — controlling the narrative — with the help of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers.

For years, Beijing has laid unilateral and illegal claims to about 90% of the South China Sea, a rich shipping lane where trillions of dollars in annual trade pass and untold billions in oil resources lie.

Through environmentally damaging dredging, China built up island fortresses around the waterway.


Chinese President Xi Jinping stood next to former President Barack Obama in the White House’s Rose Garden and promised not to militarize the islands. But China has flown its own nuclear bombers, fighter jets, and other military aviation to the artificial land features that now hold radar and missile sites.

The US’s main way of challenging China’s claims to these waters have been freedom of navigation operations, or sailing a US Navy destroyer close to the islands to show that its military doesn’t respect Beijing’s claims, as they violate international law.

“US military aircraft, you have violated our China sovereignty and infringed on our security and our rights. You need to leave immediately and keep far out,” a recent Chinese warning blared to the US, according to The New York Times.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Brittany Y. Auld)

China built not only islands, but its own narrative insisting on its ownership of the South China Sea. Any US military flights in the South China Sea used to make prominent news because Beijing would heavily object using its substantial media clout.

In August 2018, the US flew B-52s over the South China Sea four times.

“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist, state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked at the time.

But on Sept. 24, 2018, the US flew four B-52s clear across the South China Sea with hardly a peep from US or Chinese media.

Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider the B-52 flights were a matter of course.

“The movement of these aircraft require them to fly multiple routes, to include in the vicinity of the South China Sea, part of regularly scheduled operations designed to enhance our interoperability with our partners and allies in the region. The United States military will continue to fly sail and operate wherever international law allows at a times and places of our choosing,” Eastburn said in an email.

By making US military transit across the South China Sea a non-news item, something that happens regularly and without incident, the US has started to turn the tide against China’s unilateral claims.

By declaring the South China Sea as its own and trying to pressure the US into backing down in the face of missiles and fighter jets, Beijing may have opened itself up to being challenged by a superior force.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Watch this soldier pull off the ultimate homecoming surprise at the State of the Union

We’ve all seen the surprise homecomings at baseball games, school gymnasiums and countless other places. But never before have we seen one like this: a Fort Bragg soldier surprised his family at the State of the Union address, and President Trump was in on it.


President Trump remarked, “War places a heavy burden on our Nation’s extraordinary military families, especially spouses like Amy Williams from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and her two children: 6-year-old Elliana and 3-year-old Rowan.” Amy, seated next to First Lady Melania Trump, stood up with her kids to be recognized as President Trump continued.

“Amy works full time and volunteers countless hours helping other military families,” he explained. “For the past seven months, she has done it all while her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, is in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment to the Middle East.”

“Amy’s kids haven’t seen their father’s face in many months. Amy, your family’s sacrifice makes it possible for all of our families to live in safety and in peace and we want to thank you. Thank you, Amy.”

Amy was immediately given a standing ovation while she looked as though she was simply trying to hold it all together. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, President Trump said, “But Amy, there is one more thing.”

Watch the ultimate homecoming surprise:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are all the assets that would become the new Space Force

Ever since the announcement of the Space Force left us with so few details about what the service would look like, how it would be comprised, and even what its mission would be, we’ve been left to wonder about all those little details. Military personnel are wondering how to transfer to the new service, veterans want to know what the culture might look like, and civilians want to know what a new branch of service even means for the military.

All this, of course, adds up to one thing:


What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Memes.

Okay, all that adds up to two things: Memes and speculation. And the more someone knows about the military, the more they’re able to speculate about literally anything related to what could one day be a Space Force asset. Luckily for us, someone took a moment to break it all down.

Avid space enthusiast and filmmaker TJ Cooney runs a YouTube show called, “I Need More Space.” There, he fills his hunger for exploring and explaining space concepts while presenting them in an easy-to-understand show. Cooney is a prolific, accomplished video producer whose work includes incredible documentary shorts for AARP, many of them featured on We Are The Mighty.

Read More: This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

With all his work on veterans and the military combined with a true enthusiasm for all things space-related, TJ Cooney broke down everything in the existing space structure that could soon be folded into the new Space Force, in a new video called “The Space Force: Is it Crazy or Actually Genius?”

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Signing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

(United Nations)

President Trump believes Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the air, land, and sea. The video opens with criticism of the Space Force idea, just to show the immediate knee-jerk reaction to the creation of the service — but stick around, the devil is in the details.

The video answers a number of by-now familiar questions raised about the Space Force from all sides. Isn’t NASA the space force? What about the Air Force Space Command? What weapons can we have? What treaties cover the militarization of Space?

It details how the U.S. military evolved from a group of daring aviators supporting ground combat in World War I to the importance of air power in World War II and how the Department of Defense evolved to fully cover the latest theater of war, the air, in 1947.

The Air Force Space Command regulates the two United States space ports and satellite launches, and how the Air Force manages the nation’s nuclear weapons. Aside from the Air Force, there are a number of civilian entities, Army and Navy assets, as well as national intelligence and defense agencies that may benefit from integrating into the new Space Force.

The Space Force would “put all these assets under one roof and create a culture and centralized vision for space defense.” For incoming military personnel, it would create new uniforms, new boot camps, and distinct customs and traditions within the branch, just like the ones the Air Force evolved from the Army nearly 70 years ago.

The Trump Administration hopes that the new service would boost the development and testing of new defense technologies from current ones, especially anti-satellite missiles and cyber-warfare capabilities. While the United States currently enjoys space dominance, keeping up with other countries’ space developments is a hard job, and somehow the U.S. has to maintain that leadership while abiding by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

Articles

17 brilliant insights from legendary Marine general James Mattis

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a legend in the military. Revered by Marines and non-Marines alike, Mattis has taken on the persona of a modern-day Patton — having the knowledge and insight to lead his Marines through combat, while standing behind them and taking the heat if things go bad. In short, Mattis is a hell of a leader.


In 2013 while serving as commander of Central Command in Tampa, Fla., Mattis retired after four decades of service. Since then, he’s been teaching at Stanford and Dartmouth, as well as speaking across the country on leadership. He’s also working on a book with author Bing West.

We looked back at some of the best insights he offered, through a great collection of quotes. Most apply strictly to military service, but some can be just as useful in the corporate boardroom.

“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

The “dream world” Mattis is talking about is one of denial and complacency — a mood in combat that can get you killed. And in corporate America, it can get you wiped out by the competition.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.”

Mattis, who co-wrote the manual for Counterinsurgency with Gen. David Petraeus, knows well that troops cannot win over the population to their side if they are killing the wrong people. His advice here to soldiers and Marines is spot on.

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

Of course he can spell it but that’s not the point. Mattis wants to impress upon his troops that failure should not be an option.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

Before his Marines deployed to Iraq in 2003, he told them this (along with many other great pieces of advice in a now-famous letter). His point here is to be a professional warfighter who can be polite with civilians, but always remember that if things go south, the dirty work needs to get done.

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some sh–heads in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”

Recalling the mentality of the wolf, the sheep, and the sheepdog, Mattis understands that there is evil in the world. It’s important for his men to be prepared for whether they will be the hunter or the victim if they ever face it.

“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”

One of his more controversial quotes, to be sure. But in Mattis’ view, to be a professional, you need to have a professional mindset. It’s not really necessary to get emotional about what you have to do. It just needs to get done.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“You can overcome wrong technology. Your people have the initiative, they see the problem, no big deal … you can’t overcome bad culture. You’ve gotta change whoever is in charge.”

In a talk at Stanford, Mattis was relating how toxic culture can bring down an organization that has everything else right. The culture of an organization comes from the top, and if that part is screwed up, there are going to be problems.

“The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Mattis doesn’t want robots just mindlessly following his orders. As a leader, he gives broad guidance and lets his men use their own brains to decide how it gets accomplished.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

Amen.

“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”

Mattis implores his officers to not get stuck in their own little boxes. Learning how to be brilliant on the battlefield is important, but it’s more important to be able to work with others to get the job done.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”

Military officers endure (and have to create) tons of PowerPoint briefings to inform their chain of command what’s going on. Mattis however, is not one of those officers. He actually banned PowerPoint since he saw it as a waste of time.

“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

Mattis wants his Marines to always be thinking before they take the shot. It’s advice that has no doubt saved lives.

“An untrained or uneducated Marine … deployed to the combat zone is a bigger threat to mission accomplishment … than the enemy.”

The biggest detriment to mission accomplishment is not from the competition, but from within. Having the right mindset and skills is what results in getting results.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

Combat doesn’t happen in a vacuum. All the planning, meetings, and briefings on what potentially can happen in a given situation are good, but the bad guys will always react in uncertain ways. The key is to be prepared for anything.

“Be the hunter, not the hunted: Never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.”

Just because you are at the top of your game doesn’t mean someone won’t come along to knock you down. Units (and individuals) need to be vigilant and make sure that doesn’t happen.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.”

Mattis is an avid reader. On all his deployments, the general brought along a ton of books that he thought may help him along the way. In an email that went viral (via Business Insider) on the importance of reading, Mattis wrote that it “doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”

“You’ve been told that you’re broken. That you’re damaged goods … there is also Post-Traumatic Growth. You come back from war stronger and more sure of who you are.”

While giving a speech to veterans in San Francisco, Mattis tried to dispel the mindset that those leaving the service should be pitied. Instead, he told them, use your experiences as a positive that teaches you to be a better person.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Articles

Marine F-35 Lightning fighters arrive in Japan

The first permanent deployment of F-35B Lightning II fighters outside the U.S. took place last week, and the location is probably no surprise.


According to a Marine Corps release, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, or VMFA-121, has now become permanently based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
A F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, lands at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)

According to F35.com, VMFA-121 consists of 16 F-35B fighters. In its previous iteration as VMFA(AW)-121, the squadron had 12 F/A-18D Hornet fighters, a number that was reduced to 10 as planes wore out, according to a BreakingDefense.com report from last April.

The deployment comes as tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China have increased over the South China Sea, a potentially volatile maritime flashpoint. China issued a warning after White House press secretary Shawn Spicer said, “So it’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)

Spicer had echoed comments made by Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of State, during his Senate confirmation hearings. According to a FoxNews.com report, Tillerson said earlier this month, “You’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.”

In recent months, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out operations in the South China Sea. In December, China used a H-6 Badger to assert its claims as marked by the “nine-dash line.” There have also been close encounters between Chinese J-11 fighters and U.S. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes in recent years, according to a report by the Daily Caller.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

International law and American concerns

International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

Global trade and American national security

The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

The importance of chokepoints

But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

(US Department of Defense)

The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUK on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the reason Iran is limiting its ballistic missile range

Iran’s supreme leader has restricted the range of ballistic missiles manufactured in the country to 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), the head of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Oct. 31, which limits their reach to only regional Mideast targets.


The comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari to reporters mark the first acknowledgement that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has imposed limits on the country’s ballistic missile program.

It also appears to be an effort by Iranian authorities to contrast its program, which they often describe as for defensive purposes, against those of countries like North Korea, which now uses its arsenal to threaten the United States.

“It is a political decision,” said Michael Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. “I think with the supreme leader saying it, it takes on a little more significance.”

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Wikimedia Commons photo by Khamenei.ir.

The range of 2,000 kilometers encompasses much of the Middle East, including Israel and American military bases in the region. That’s caused concern for the US and its allies, even as Iran’s ballistic missile program was not included as part of the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran, Jafari told journalists that the capability of Iran’s ballistic missiles is “enough for now.” The Guard runs Iran’s missile program, answering only to Khamenei.

Related: Iran just tested another ballistic missile. Here’s where it can strike

“Today, the range of our missiles, as the policies of the Iran’s supreme leader dictate, are limited to 2,000 kilometers, even though we are capable of increasing this range,” he said. “Americans, their forces, and their interests are situated within a 2,000-kilometer radius around us and we are able to respond to any possible desperate attack by them.”

However, Jafari said he didn’t believe there would be any war between Iran and the US.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei Gives the Order of conquest to Brigadier General Ali Fadavi and four other commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Khamenei.ir.

“They know that if they begin a war between Iran and the United States, they will definitely be the main losers and their victory will by no means be guaranteed,” he said. “Therefore, they won’t start a war.”

While keeping with the anti-American tone common in his speeches, Jafari’s comments seemed to be timed to calm tension over Iran’s missile program.

By limiting their range, Iran can contrast itself against threatening countries like North Korea, as Pyongyang has tested developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the US mainland and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. Pyongyang also flew two powerful new midrange missiles over Japan, between threats to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a US Pacific territory and military hub.

The Trump administration already sanctioned Iran for test-firing a ballistic missile in February, with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn warning Tehran that Iran was “on notice.” President Donald Trump’s recent refusal to re-certify the nuclear accord has sent the matter to the US Congress. On Oct. 26, the US House of Representatives voted to put new sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles, without derailing the deal.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank
Photo from US Coast Guard.

Iran long has insisted its ballistic missiles are for defensive purposes. It suffered a barrage of Scud missiles fired by Iraq after dictator Saddam Hussein launched an eight-year war with his neighbor in the 1980s that killed 1 million people. To build its own program, Tehran purchased North Korean missiles and technology, providing much-needed cash to heavily sanctioned Pyongyang.

Iran today likely has the capability to go beyond 2,000 kilometers with its Khorramshahr ballistic missile, though it chose to limit its range by putting a heavier warhead on it in testing, Elleman said.

Also Read: This is why Iran is smuggling boatloads of weapons into Yemen

“It will be interesting to see how Iran reconciles this Khorramshahr missile with the supreme leader’s dictate,” he said. “Iran may say, ‘Well, we’re fitting it with this big warhead so we’re not exceeding this limitation,’ but the modification is very simple.”

The Gulf Arab nations surrounding Iran, while hosting American military bases, also fly sophisticated US fighter jets that Iranian forces can’t match. The ballistic missiles provide leverage against them, as well as the US-made anti-missile batteries their neighbors have bought, according to Tytti Erasto, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

“Iran’s pattern of missile testing — which has sought to address the long-standing problem of poor accuracy — is consistent with the program’s stated purpose as a regional deterrent,” Erasto wrote Oct. 30. “It also reinforces the argument that Iran’s missiles are designed to be conventional, not nuclear.”

Still, Iran could use the missiles as “a tool of coercion and intimidation,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, the senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which takes a hard line on Tehran and is skeptical of the nuclear deal.

“A secure Islamic Republic that does not fear kinetic reprisal is more likely to engage in low-level proxy wars and foreign adventurism, much like we see today,” he said.

Meanwhile on Oct. 31, Iran broke ground at its Bushehr nuclear power plant for two more atomic reactors to generate electricity. State television quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying the first new reactor would go online in seven years, while a third would be active in nine years.

Russia will provide assistance in building the new reactors as Moscow helped bring Bushehr online in 2011. It marks the first expansion of Iran’s nuclear power industry since the atomic accord.

MIGHTY TRENDING

For some vets, certifications are worth more than degrees

As a veteran, while I was active duty I had a hard time deciding where to focus my efforts to make myself competitive for a job after the service. I wanted to prepare for my future both in the military and as a civilian.

In the last couple years and following months leading up to transition, I was constantly debating the desire and effort to get either a master’s degree or get a professional certification. The difficulty I found was not that I wanted one or the other but that I was unsure what I wanted to do after transition and I wasn’t sure what would help me the most. I considered an MBA, MS in logistics or MS in Supply Chain Management, MA in operations or management etc. Then there was the factor of time available and time until I transitioned; neither of which I had a lot of.

When I talked to a mentor of mine I was advised to pursue the certifications rather than education. This surprised me, but it was good advice for my situation.


Here were some of the factors I was dealing with:

  1. I had a defined timeline. (less than 2 years)
  2. I wanted the best value for my effort and money with versatility. (I wanted to save my GI Bill for my kids)
  3. I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do for a career with enough specificity to invest in a master’s degree.
  4. I needed something to help me get a job/make me competitive in the job market and also demonstrate my skills to an employer.

For me the choice to pursue certifications was better than to pursue a masters and has been huge for me since I left active duty. This isn’t to say that certification is better than a master’s degree, but I think this is an overlooked opportunity for active duty before and during transition.

As I have coached individuals through this question over the past two years I start with a simple process.

  1. What field do you want to go into and what role do you want to have? *If you are unsure then look at a job posting to see what qualifications are required.
What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Ask the right questions

Knowing the type of industry and what position/type of work a person wants to hold/do helps frame and shape what qualifications, certifications, and education might be beneficial. Certain industries value certifications more than formal education. Things like IT/Software development tend to value certifications more (Security Plus, C++, ITIL, ACP, SCRUM). Areas like finance and business value more formal programs like MBA. Engineering and construction look for both (BS/MS degree and PE/PMP).

  1. What is your timeline? Various education programs have very different timelines to obtain. Master’s programs usually take about 2 years. Certifications are usually less depending on if there is a project associated or not.
  2. What is your budget? Formal education programs are typically much more expensive than certification programs.

As I began to look at the qualifications listed on jobs I was interested in two certifications stood out. Lean six sigma and PMP. Both of these I was able to earn and have funded by the military.

So what do you choose? Here are some pros and cons to each.

Certifications


Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Quick Timeline to obtain
  • Both narrow and broad application depending on which certification
  • Quicker return on investment
  • Often demonstrate education and experience
  • Cost may be reimbursed or covered by employer or military unit.

Cons:

  • Often Industry specific
  • Many require experience in a field (PE, PMP)
  • Not all instructional programs are quality (Flooded market)
  • Often require re-certification/maintenance

Formal degree 


Pros:

  • Often Required for upper movement in a corporation
  • Broad acceptance and application
  • More in depth learning and education
  • Costs may be reimbursed
  • No re-certification

Cons:

  • Long time to obtain
  • High costs
  • May be industry specific

The choice is not always easy but hopefully this provides some insights that have not previously been considered and a way to approach this decision.

I can tell you that for me my PMP certificate and the training I received was invaluable. I have used the training in my role as a Project Manager in a heavy rigging company and how as a consultant with a DOD firm. The best thing was that my military unit funded it as well as my lean six sigma certification.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See the stealth fighters and bombers patrolling the Pacific

The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.


What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.

Source: US sends stealth B-2s to the Pacific, warning regional rivals that America’s bombers are ‘on watch’ 24/7

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”

Source: Pacific Air Forces

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”

Source: Air Force

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The multi-role B-2 Spirit bomber has the ability to break through tough defenses, bringing a significant amount of firepower, both conventional and nuclear, to bear on enemy targets.

Source: Air Force

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A close-up of the B-2 Spirit bomber refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable or stealth characteristics make it almost invisible to enemy radars, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.

Source: Air Force

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber flies near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Together, a B-2 accompanied by a pair of F-22s could kick in an enemy’s door, let loose a firestorm of devastation, and get out before the enemy figures out what happened.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 weird fears that only service members have

Yeah, yeah, yeah… Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam. But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren’t exactly intuitive.

These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.


What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring.

(USARDEC Tom Faulkner)

Changing batteries can be the end

It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here’s the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.

Re-uploaded from a device you probably don’t have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You’re essentially faced with, “Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck.”

Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world’s highest-stakes game of Operation.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3?

(U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)

Is this version of the packing list really the final one?

No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That’s because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.

If you’ve been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don’t have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won’t affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn’t know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you’re now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

There’s a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.

Even when you’re relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there’s always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You’re getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn’t answering their phone because they’re worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?

Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can’t even delay it with sex.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can’t risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery.

(U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)

Surprise formation? Crap, here’s a new training requirement.

The worst nightmare comes when you’re just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That’s when you’ll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.

And if you’re not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)

Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.

What an Abrams crew thinks of Russia’s newest tank

Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting!

(U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren’t great either)

CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there’s usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.

Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you’ve never heard before, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.

This message was brought to you by the letter ‘C.’ ‘C’ is just glad that you hate it a little less next to ‘X,’ because ‘C’ usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).

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