5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020 - We Are The Mighty
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5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

While on active duty, service to country and others is given but once the uniform comes off it can be much harder to find meaning and impactful way to help others. Members of the organizations listed below don’t have that problem. There are many nonprofits that support active-duty, veterans and their families and we have identified five organizations that are finding new and innovative ways to help our community.


Here are 5 organizations that should be on your radar in 2020.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Activities at the VFWC.

Veteran Family Wellness Center

UCLA Veteran Family Wellness Center

Located on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, CA, the Veteran Family Wellness Center is a partnership between the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center and the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. It offers family-focused services to all veterans and their families, no matter what, whether that means helping couples reconnect or guiding families to reach their goals as they navigate the unique situations of veteran life.

Whatever a veteran’s or family situation, they have the resources to take care of them and assist them in overcoming their circumstances, providing the tools they need to move forward. Plus, by bringing in the rest of the family—whether it’s kids who are caught up in the difficulty of transition (going from the military brat lifestyle back to civilian can be tough too!) or a spouse taking on a caregiver role—VFWC is able to create the best environment for vets and their families.

And their team is a combination of veterans and skilled counseling personnel, so they bring a unique knowledge of both difficulties veteran families can face as well as how to improve them. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can even request a free Lyft ride to visit the center.
5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Green Beret Foundation

Green Beret Foundation

Specific to the Army, the Green Beret Foundation assists the Green Beret community and its families, giving them support during transition, injury, or difficulties sustained from numerous deployments. When a Green Beret is injured, the Foundation is there to support him monetarily, physically, and emotionally, and they stay there through his recovery and beyond.

Additionally, they are there to assist their families as well, which they consider to be the foundation of the community. This ranges from supporting Gold Star families, to the wives and caregivers of surviving Green Berets, to offering scholarships to their dependents. And once a Green Beret chooses to transition from active duty, the Green Beret Foundation is there to offer personalized assistance, understanding that no two Green Berets are alike.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White visiting with elementary school students.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

The nonprofit arm of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the Foundation focuses on educating the American public about the meaning of the Medal: courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, and commitment. Those who receive the Medal of Honor embody these values, and the Foundation is committed to making sure those they served understand what they did to wear it.

It’s an important task for other reasons; the history surrounding the actions of Medal of Honor recipients is a significant part of American history, and the Medal of Honor Foundation works to make sure none of it is lost, capturing these stories in writing and through interviews with the recipients. They also bring recipients to speak at elementary schools, teaching the next generation of Americans about the values that the Medal represents. This captured history is then exhibited at kiosks in museums around the country so that no one has to travel too far to learn about these values and actions.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

A Force Blue volunteer carries a piece of coral for conservation.

Force Blue

Force Blue

On the surface, Force Blue is about helping veterans through marine conservation, but just like diving, there’s a lot more below the surface. When Special Operations vets transition out of service, they can find themselves without a purpose—their missions are over. Force Blue gives them a new mission, which creates a different sense or purpose; former combat divers can now put their toolset in that area to use in the area of underwater conservation.

A common complaint from veterans is losing their feeling of service, but Force Blue transforms service into an atmosphere of “caring, cooperation and positive change with the power to restore lives and restore the planet.” In addition, they’ve also offered response services after hurricanes. Plus, diving in paradise—their missions involve coral reefs and sea turtle populations, in locations like the Cayman Islands and the Gulf Coast—is therapeutic all by itself.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

The Darby Project

Darby Project

Like Green Berets, Army Rangers are a unique and tightknit community of service members, and the Darby Project—named for the first commander of the newly formed 1st Ranger Battalion in 1942, Colonel William O. Darby. The Darby Project maintains the principles that Colonel Darby established within the Battalion: high standards and discipline, which the Darby Project strives to uphold within its own services.

These services supports Rangers all the way through their transition to veteran life. Their primary focus is facilitating Rangers creating civilian lifestyles filled with hope and purpose, which they achieve through fitness programs and other events, as well as maintaining their sense of community among one another. Since a primary aspect of being an Army Ranger is leadership within the military, the Darby Project empowers Ranger veterans to lead within their communities as civilians as well.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out video of volcanic lightning caused by erupting volcano

Video footage captures the moment a rare occurrence called “volcanic lighting” occurred in the Philippines.

As can be seen in the video below, volcanic smoke and ash are erupting from the volcano as lightning strikes the sky.

The smoke appears to make the lightning more visible and pronounced to onlookers, who are heard screaming in the background at the terrifying scene.


Lightning strike from the ash cloud during the Taal Volcano Eruption – Philippines

www.youtube.com

A closeup of the footage seen below was re-posted by meteorological institution MetSul on Twitter.

Volcanic lighting is a rare natural phenomenon believed to be caused by ash particles rubbing together in volcanic clouds, creating friction and static electricity.

The Taal volcano began spewing lava on Monday morning local time.

A day prior, the volcano emitted a huge plume of ash across the surrounding area, and put an estimated 450,000 people at risk, according to the UN OCHA office in the Philippines.

The ash covered the area in a blanket of volcanic dust, and as of 6.a.m Monday local time 7,700 people had been evacuated by authorities.

The volcano is one of the world’s smallest in size, but has recorded 34 eruptions over the last 450 years, according to the BBC.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the NVGs we’ve all been waiting for

US Night Vision is one of the largest distributors of night vision optics and accessories in the world. As such, they have a couple new products of interest that made their way to SHOT Show 2019.

The Harris F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular has actually been around for a couple of years, but for whatever reason, Harris chose not to push it on the market and kept it on the back burner. This competitor to the L3 PVS1531 features white phosphor tubes and a unique close-focus technology that allows users to perform intricate tasks under night vision.


5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular.

As many a user of helmet-mounted night vision has experienced, most NVGs will blackout when the user tilts their head to look upward. The F5032 has an intuitive vertical viewing capability that recognizes when the optics are in use and prevents the automatic tilt shutoff from activating, so that the goggles only shutoff when placed in the stowed position. This is sure to be a huge selling point for those who spend time working under aircraft or ascending vertical structures.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

A view through the white phosphor F5032.

The F5032 has an integrated LED IR illuminator to reduce the need for external IR illumination devices. The image intensifier tubes are serviceable at the unit level, making it easier for them to be repaired without the extended downtime that comes from shipping them back to the company. The F5032 uses a standard dovetail mounting bracket for compatibility with the Wilcox NVG mount.

Also new from US Night Vision is the BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder. This minimalistic recording device attaches to the eyepiece of the ocular lens of your night vision optic (optic specific) to record whatever you are viewing. The unit supports up to 128gb Micro SD for nine hours of record time with minute by minute seamless High Definition 1920×1080 30fps recording.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder attached to a PVS14.

The LPMR-MK2 has an integrated microphone to capture audio and is externally powered via USB to accommodate a wide variety of battery sources. To make operation simple, the LPMR automatically begins recording when powered on, so there are no external buttons to fool with, and the operator doesn’t have to wonder if what if what they are seeing is actually being captured or not.

The unit weighs less than 1.5oz, so the added weight to night vision optics is minimal. The upfront placement of the device also reduces the amount of leverage placed on the helmet, so the user doesn’t have extra forward weight pulling down on their helmet. This recorder is sure to be a hit with military and law enforcement who have a need to record low-light training or real-world operations for after-action evaluation or courtroom purposes.

More information on these and other new products from US Night Vision can be found here.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 signs that let troops know it’s about to get real

Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.

Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:


5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

The commander shows up to inspections

In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.

But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)

Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop

When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.

But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.

All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners

But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.

So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive

Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.

So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.

(HBO)

A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal

As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.

This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,

“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)

Comms blackout

Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.

So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

So, we wrote about that “four-barrel” rifle last week and posed a few questions to the inventor, Martin Grier, in an email. He got back to us that day with our initial query and has now responded to some more of the questions we posited in the original article. His answers make us even more excited about the weapon’s promise, assuming that everything holds true through testing in Army labs and the field.


5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

First, a bit of terminology. The weapon is a rifle. Most people have described it as having four barrels, but it’s really a barrel with four bores (the original prototype had five). The inventor prefers to call it a “ribbon gun,” which we’ll go ahead and use from here on out.

Just be aware that “ribbon gun” means a firearm with multiple bores that can fire multiple multiple rounds per trigger squeeze or one round at a time. The bullets are spinning as they exit the weapon, stabilizing them in flight like shots from a conventional rifle.

If you haven’t read our original article on the weapon, that might help you get caught up. It’s available at this link.

So, some of our major questions about the rifle were how the design, if adopted, would affect an infantryman’s combat load, their effective rate of fire, and how the rounds affect each other in flight when fired in bursts. We’re going to take on those topics one at a time, below.

Weight

How much weight would an infantryman be carrying if equipped with the new weapon? Grier says it should be very similar, as the charge blocks which hold the ammunition are actually very light

“In practice, Charge Block ammo, shot-for-shot, is roughly equivalent to conventional cartridge ammo,” he said, “depending on which caliber it’s compared to. It’s lighter than 7.62 and slightly heavier than 5.56. It outperforms both.”

Since the weapon fires 6mm rounds, that means the per-shot weight is right where you would expect with conventional rounds. The prototype weapon weighs 6.5 pounds. That’s less than an M16 and right on for the base M4.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

The L4m ammo blocks feature four firing chambers and their rounds, stacked vertically. The blocks can clip together in stacks and be loaded quickly. Excess blocks able to be snapped off and returned to the shooter’s pouch easily.

(Copyright FD Munitions, reprinted with permission)

And those blocks of ammo provide a lot of benefits since they can withstand 80,000 PSI. That lets designers opt for higher muzzle velocities if they wish, extending range and increasing lethality. For comparison, the M4 and M16 put out about 52,000 PSI of chamber pressure.

Even better, the blocks snap together and can be loaded as a partial stack. So, if you fire six blocks and want to reload, there’s no need to empty the rifle. Just pull the load knob and shove in your spare stack. The weapon will accept six blocks, and you can snap off the spares and put them back into your pouch.

Rate of fire

But what about effective rates of fire?

Well, the biggest hindrance on a rifle’s effective rate of fire is the heat buildup. Grier says that’s been taken care of, thanks to the materials used in the barrel as well as the fact that each chamber is only used once per block.

“In the L4, … the chamber is integral with the Charge Block,” he said. “Every four shots, the Block is ejected, along with its heat, and a new, cold one takes its place. The barrel is constructed with a thin, hard-alloy core, and a light-alloy outer casing that acts as a finned heat sink. In continuous operation, the barrel will reach an elevated temperature, then stabilize (like a piston engine). Each bore in the L4 carries only a 25 percent duty cycle, spreading the heat load and quadrupling barrel life.”

FD Munitions expects that the military version of the L4 would have a stabilized temperature during sustained fire somewhere around 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit, but they took pains to clarify that it’s a projected data point. They have not yet tested any version of the weapon at those fire rates.

But, if it holds up, that beats the M16 during 1975 Army tests by hundreds of degrees. The M16 barrels reached temperatures of over 600 degrees while firing 10 rounds per minute. At 60-120 rounds per minute, the barrels reached temperatures of over 1,000 degrees. That’s a big part of why the military tells troops to hold their fire to 15 rounds per minute or less, except in emergencies.

All of this combines to allow an effective rate of fire somewhere between 60 and 100 shots per minute. That’s about five times more rounds per minute than a M4 or M16 can sustain. And that’s important; paratroopers in a 2008 battle died as their weapons malfunctioned. One soldier had three M4s fail while he was firing at an average rate of 14 rounds per minute.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

The guts of the weapon feature very few moving parts, a trait that should reduce the likelihood of failures in the field.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

Do rounds affect one another mid-flight?

Sweet, so the combat load won’t be too heavy, and the weapon can spit rounds fast AF. But, if rounds are fired in volleys or bursts, will they affect each other in flight, widening the shot group?

Grier says the rounds fly close together, but have very little effect on each other in flight, remaining accurate even if you’re firing all four rounds at once.

And, four rounds at once has a special bonus when shot against ceramic armor, designed for a maximum of three hits.

“The projectiles do not affect each other in flight,” he said. “Even when fired simultaneously, tiny variations in timing because of chemical reaction rates, striker spring resonances, field decay rates, electric conductor lengths etc., ensure that the projectiles will be spaced out slightly in time along the line of sight. The side effect is that the impacts will be likewise consecutive, defeating even the best ceramic body armor.”

Meanwhile, for single shot mode, each bore can be independently zeroed when combined with an active-reticle scope. With standard mechanical sights, Grier recommends zeroing to one of the inside bores, ensuring rounds from any bore will land close to your zeroed point of impact.

Some other concerns that have arisen are things like battery life, which Grier thinks will be a non-issue in the military version. It’s expected to pack a gas-operated Faraday generator that not only can power the rifle indefinitely, but can provide juice for attachments like night vision scopes or range finders.

There’s also the question of malfunctions, which can happen in any weapon. Failure to fire will be of little consequence since you’re going to eject that chamber quickly anyway. If a barrel becomes inoperable due to some sort of fault, the fire control can simply skip that barrel, allowing the shooter to still fire 75, 50, or 25 percent of their rounds, depending on how many barrels are affected.

So, if everything goes well, this weapon could shift the balance of power when the U.S. goes squad vs. squad against other militaries. Here’s hoping the final product lives up to the hype and makes it into the hands of service members.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US met with the Taliban for peace talks in Doha

Perhaps unthinkable as early as just a year ago, diplomats from the United States met with representatives of the Afghan Taliban to discuss terms for ending the 17-year long conflict in Afghanistan. It all began when Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani and Taliban senior leadership agreed to a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. When it actually happened, not only did Afghans across the country rejoice, it legitimized the prospect of a permanent end to the fighting.

Of course, violence didn’t cease entirely for the most important holiday in Islam. Fighters under the flag of the Islamic State continued pressing attacks from the ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province, killing 30.


Related: The ISIS vs Taliban war in Afghanistan is heating up

Elsewhere in the country, however, Afghans were able to breathe a much-welcomed sigh of relief for the first time in over a decade, even if it was only temporary. Fighters from both sides even joined each other in some areas to celebrate the holiday, sharing a salat prayer or jelabi sweets. For a few days, their automatic rifle fire was directed into the air, instead of at each other. After the holiday, the fighters reluctantly returned to the routine of war they have endured for 17 years.

The joint celebrations made it apparent that many in Afghanistan are ready to see an end to all fighting in the country and that some kind of agreement could be reached between the opposing sides — including the U.S.-supported Ghani government. Now, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Alice Wells, a senior official for U.S. relations in Afghanistan, traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban.

Taliban officials were excited at the meeting, telling journalists it yielded “very positive signals,” in their eyes. Representatives of the Afghan government were not present at the talks. It was Ashraf Ghani’s central government in Afghanistan that first offered the Eid ceasefire agreement.

The two sides agreed to meet again in the very near future.

The biggest wrench in recent peace works is the rise of a relatively new force arising in Afghanistan, one the United States and the Taliban seem to deem a greater threat than one another: ISIS.

As a newcomer to the fighting in the country, ISIS is not as capable, having neither the technical and numerical superiority of the United States nor a force of battle-hardened Afghans who have been fighting for decades, some as far back as the 1979 Soviet invasion. The terror organization also does not have the entrenched backing of rural Afghans like the Taliban does in many areas.

The difference between this U.S.-Taliban meeting is that previous American administrations demanded that any peace talks be held between the Taliban and the Afghan government, whereas the Taliban would only agree to talk to the United States — and the biggest demand for peace in the country is that all foreign forces withdraw.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New photos show Russian military buildup on NATO’s doorstep

Russia is upgrading and modernizing four military installations in a strategic area on NATO’s doorstep, satellite images obtained by CNN suggest.

Increased Russian military activity has been spotted in Kaliningrad, a disconnected Russian territory situated between Poland and the Baltic states. The Russians have been carrying out major renovation work at what is believed to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, Hans M. Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists concluded in an analysis of satellite images in June 2018.

Russian operations in the area appear to have dramatically expanded in recent months.


5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

(FAS)

Work continues at the apparent nuclear storage site identified earlier, and another 40 new bunkers, each with the potential to serve as military storage facilities, are under construction near Primorsk, a large port on the Baltic Sea. Upgrades to the Chkalovsk air base, including a new railway and improved aircraft landing system, and the Chernyakhovsk base, home to a Russian missile brigade, are underway, CNN reported Oct. 17, 2018.

The nuclear-capable Iskander missile was delivered to the Chernyakhovsk base in February 2018. This troubling delivery is recognized as one of the more serious signs of Russian militarization in the Baltics.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Russian Iskander missiles on the 9P78-1 Transporter erector launcher.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

“If they want to challenge us, we will challenge them,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, told CNN without specifically commenting on the satellite images. “We’re not going to be intimidated by those systems that are out there.”

Reports of a possible Russian military buildup in Kaliningrad come just ahead of a massive NATO military exercise involving tens of thousands of troops from more than two dozen countries.

The upcoming Trident Juncture exercises, scheduled to begin in late October 2018, will include 45,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships, and 150 aircraft from 31 countries training side by side in and around Norway. The joint drills, Article 5 collective defense exercises, will include land, air, and amphibious forces training to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state.

The Russians have been invited to observe the exercises, which are designed to send a message to Moscow.

“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” Foggo explained to press at the Pentagon in October 2018. “They are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”

Tensions are running high between Russia and NATO, and Kaliningrad is a potential fault line for regional conflict.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Only one country who developed nuclear weapons ever gave them up

In 1979, American Vela Hotel satellites detected a bright double flash near the Prince Edward Islands of Antarctica. A double-flash is a clear indication of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, as all 41 of the previous double flashes turned out to be. The only thing was this time, no one was claiming this unannounced nuclear test.

A Soviet spy later announced the flashes were caused by a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test.


The South Africans had been researching atomic energy since at least 1965, with the delivery of a U.S.-made nuclear research reactor and a supply of highly enriched uranium fuel. The country soon began to pour its resources into its own uranium enrichment programs and by 1969, was able to produce weapons-grade uranium on its own. By the 1970s, South Africa was developing nuclear explosions for use in mining, but that program quickly became a weapons development program. By the 1980s, South Africa was a nuclear weapons state.

In the 1980s, South Africa was also developing missiles that could be used with the six warheads they constructed, based on the Israeli designs for its Shavit rockets.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Israel’s Shavit rockets delivers satellites into space for the Jewish state.

It’s important to note that during this entire process, South Africa was fighting a prolonged border insurrection with its breakaway state of South West Africa and its allies in Angola and Cuba. Between 1966 and 1989, the Cold War raged hot in the southern tip of the continent as the South West African People’s Organisation wrested control of the region against the South African Defence Forces. At the same time, the South Africans were fighting Angolan and Cuban intervention, as well as insurgent groups from nearby Zambia, especially the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.

The extended fighting at their borders gave South Africa a big incentive to develop nuclear weapons to bring leverage to their position at the negotiating table. When the Western powers and the Soviet Union got wind of potential South African nuclear tests in the late 80s, they were horrified and pressured the South Africans to abort the test. But South Africa never had any intention of putting warheads on the missiles; they didn’t fit anyway. South Africa wanted the world to think they did, however.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

A South African armored column in Ohangwena, Ovamboland in the 1970s.

Instead, the South Africans did the opposite. They signed a peace accord with all the belligerents they had been fighting for more than 20 years, withdrew their troops from South West Africa, and allowed the region to declare its independence as the new country of Namibia. The very next year, South Africa ended its nuclear program. Since then, it helped establish the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and became party to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, ending more than 40 years of nuclear weapons research.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The tiny mountainous country of Switzerland has been in a state of “perpetual neutrality” since the major European powers of the time declared it as such during the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.

Why did they do this?

The French conquered Switzerland in 1798, establishing the Helvetic Republic in attempt to make Switzerland something of a strategically positioned French satellite state. Not long after, Austrian and Russian forces invaded the country in their war against France. The Swiss, rather than fighting alongside their French overlords, largely refused. This ultimately led to the Act of Mediation, giving the Swiss back much of their former independence. Twelve years later, they got the rest thanks to the aforementioned Congress of Vienna in which their neutrality in the wars of their neighbors was officially recognised.


Beyond the Swiss themselves having long tried to stay out of the conflicts of Europe (since the early 16th century after a devastating loss at the Battle of Marignano), part of the reason Switzerland was granted neutrality in perpetuity in 1815 is because the European powers of the time deemed that the country was ideally located to function as a “a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria.” Thus, granting their neutrality in wars, so long as they continued to stay out of them, would “contribute to stability in the region.”

Since that time, with a few minor exceptions, Switzerland has steadfastly refused to compromise its neutrality for any reason, though on the war-front they did suffer an exceptionally brief civil war in the mid-19th century resulting in only a handful of casualties. While minor in its scale, this civil war drastically changed the political landscape of the Swiss government, including the establishment of a constitution partially borrowing from the then less than a century old United States constitution.

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

Swiss officer barracks in the Umbrail Pass during World War I.

In any event, as for those aforementioned “minor exceptions”, Switzerland has occasionally taken part in some global peacekeeping missions and prior to 1860 Swiss troops did sometimes take part in various skirmishes, despite their neutrality.

In more modern times, Switzerland needed to defend its borders from both Allied and Axis (see: How Did the Axis and Allies Get Their Names) air incursions during WW2. For instance, they shot down nearly a dozen German planes in the spring of 1940 alone, as well as shot down some American bombers and forced down countless others on both sides. This included grounding and detaining the crews of over a hundred Allied bombers that tried to fly over the country. When Hitler tried to counter Swiss measures at keeping the Luftwaffe from their skies by sending a sabotage team to destroy Swiss airfields, the Swiss successfully captured the saboteurs before they could carry out any bombings.

You might think it a bit silly for the Swiss to risk war with both sides by shooting or forcing down foreign aircraft from their skies, but on several occasions Allied bombers accidentally attacked Swiss cities, mistaking them for German ones. For instance, on April 1, 1944, American bombers, thinking they were bombing Ludwigshafen am Rhein, bombed Schaffhausen, killing 40 Swiss citizens and destroying over fifty buildings. This was not an isolated incident.

So how exactly did Switzerland, surrounded on all sides by Axis (or Central in WW1) and Allied powers during the wars to end all wars, manage to keep enemy troops at bay without much in the way of any fighting?

Officially Switzerland maintains a policy of “Aggressive Neutrality” meaning that although it actively avoids taking part in conflicts, as evidenced by their air-force activities during WW2, it will defend its own interests with vigour. How vigorous? To ensure other countries respect its neutral stance, Switzerland has long put itself into a terrifyingly over prepared position to fight, and made sure every country around them was, and is, well aware of this fact.

As for specifics, to begin with, a common misconception about Switzerland is that because it doesn’t actively take part in global military conflicts, that it doesn’t have a strong or well prepared military. In reality the Swiss military is a highly trained and competent fighting force, and due to the country’s policy of compulsory conscription of males (today women may volunteer for any position in the military, but are not required to serve) is surprisingly large for a country of only around eight million people.

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Swiss border patrol in the Alps during World War II.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of all males are ultimately deemed mentally and physically fit enough to serve in the Swiss military, meaning a huge percentage of their population is ultimately military trained. (Those who are not, and aren’t exempt because of a disability, are required to pay additional taxes until they are 30 to make up for not serving.)

As for what fighting force is actively maintained, the Swiss military today is only around 140,000 men strong and just this year it has been voted to reduce that to 100,000. This is a major downsize from just two decades ago when it was estimated the Swiss military had some 750,000 soldiers. For reference, this latter total is about half the size of the United States military today, despite Switzerland having only about eight million people vs. the United States’ three hundred million.

In addition to this, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and many Swiss people are highly competent in handling said firearms due to both compulsory military service and a strong culture of recreational shooting (half a million Swiss children are said to be part of a gun club of some kind).

This said, in recent years the rate of gun ownership has declined somewhat after a series of gun related incidents, such as one where a man shot his estranged wife with his old military issued rifle. Prior to the shooting, military conscripts would take their rifle home with them after their service ended and were expected to keep it ready for use in defending the country should the need arise.

After these incidents, the military curbed this and implemented a new policy stating that any conscript wishing to keep their gun after service must buy it and apply for a permit. As part of this new policy, the Swiss military also no longer provides ammunition with the guns, instead keeping it in secure locations that citizens must get to in the event of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, generally speaking, Switzerland is prepared for near any global catastrophe from nuclear fallout to a surprise invasion from an enemy force thanks to a defensive plan it has been implementing since 1880, but which was doubled-down upon during WW2 and later during the Cold War.

Dubbed the Swiss National Redoubt, in a nutshell Switzerland has taken advantage of it unique natural geography, which includes mountains that surround it on nearly all sides, to build countless bunkers, fortifications and warehouses across the country that can be accessed at a moment’s notice. The full scale of the fortifications is a closely guarded secret, but some of them are kept in plain view as part of a comprehensive campaign of deterrence.

Initially the National Redoubt consisted of tunnels bored into the many mountains of Switzerland in key strategic positions for retreating troops and citizens to take shelter in, but over the years these have evolved to encompass a host of ingenious defensive and offensive structures. Along with tunnels and bunkers (which are fully stocked and contain everything from bakeries and hospitals to dormitories), the mountains of Switzerland also hide countless tanks, aircraft, and hidden artillery guns (some of which are pointed directly at Switzerland’s own roads to destroy them in the event of invasion).

Oddly for a landlocked country, Switzerland does maintain an active navy of sorts, though they don’t store any boats in its mountains as far as we could find. The naval branch of the Swiss forces’ primary role is in patrolling the country’s lakes on the border and providing aid in search and rescue operations.

As for more specifically how they kept themselves out of the world wars, during WW1, the Swiss military, under freshly appointed General Ulrich Wille, mobilised well over 200,000 Swiss soldiers and deployed them across its major entry points to deter any outside forces from considering waging war on the country. After it became apparent that Switzerland’s neutrality would be recognised by all powers in the first Great War, the vast majority of the Swiss troops were sent home. (In fact, in the final year of the war, the Swiss military had shrunk its numbers to just 12,000.) Nothing further was required to keep the Swiss out of WW1.

WW2 was a different beast altogether with Switzerland not banking on Hitler respecting their long-held neutral stance in European conflicts. Thus, newly appointed Swiss General Henri Guisan was given the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to defend the small country from their neighbors, Hitler and his allies, despite that said powers drastically outmatched the Swiss army in a variety of ways.

Towards this end, leading up to the war, the Swiss withdrew from the League of Nations to help ensure their neutrality, began to re-build their military (bringing the number up to 430,000 combat troops within three days of the start of the war), and strongly encouraged its citizens to keep at minimum two months’ worth of supplies on hand at any given time. On top of that, they also began secret negotiations with France to join forces against Germany, should Germany attack Switzerland (a risky move that was discovered by the Germans after France fell to them).

But even with all that, knowing the Swiss couldn’t win if Hitler really wanted to invade, Guisan and co. made the decision to drastically ramp up their WW1 era strategy of making invading Switzerland as unsavory an option as possible. Guisan noted that by utilizing Switzerland’s harsh terrain, a comparatively small amount of Swiss soldiers in a secure defensive position could fight off a massive fighting force if the need ever arose. So the plan was essentially to perpetually defend and retreat to some fortified position over and over again, ultimately conceding the less defensible populated areas of the country once the government and citizens had managed a retreat into secret fortified positions in the Alps. They’d then use the Alps as a base from which to both launch guerrilla attacks to make life miserable for any successful invasion force and to use highly defensible positions there to keep crucial supply lines from the invaders.

More controversially, Switzerland continued to trade with Nazi Germany during the war in order to further de-incentivise Hitler from invading. (There is some speculation that some of the Allies’ “accidental” attacks on Switzerland were really not accidents at all, given that some of the buildings that were blown up were factories supplying the Axis powers.)

The multi-pronged plan worked and, while Hitler did have a detailed plan in place to invade Switzerland eventually, the cost of doing so was always too high given the Axis power’s troubles both on the Eastern and Western fronts. Thus, Switzerland was largely ignored by both Allies and the Axis throughout WW2, despite its amazingly well placed location right next to Germany, Italy, France, and Austria.

Switzerland stepped up their level of defence during the Cold War, again mostly out of a desire to deter any potential invaders. This time, however, the focus was on “aggressively” defending Switzerland’s borders instead of defending them only long enough to cover a retreat into the well fortified mountains.

Towards this end, Switzerland’s roads, bridges and train lines were rigged with explosives that could be detonated at any time. In many cases, the engineers who designed the bridges were required to come up with the most efficient way, using explosives, to ensure the complete destruction of those same bridges. Once the destruction plan was developed, hidden explosives were installed at the appropriate locations in the bridges. On top of that, the military also lined hundreds of mountains flanking major roads with explosives to create artificial rockslides. All total, over three thousand points of demolition are publicly known to have been implemented throughout the small country.

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Large-scale construction of hangers were conducted by the Swiss military in the 1950s.

With ground attacks covered, the Swiss looked to the skies. Unfortunately for them, attack by air is much harder to defend against for a country so small that enemy air forces could penetrate anywhere within its borders before an adequate defence could be mustered to defend its cities. To protect against this, the Swiss government constructed thousands of bomb shelters in homes, towns and cities to such a degree that it’s estimated that anywhere between 80 to 120 percent of the country’s population could hide in them for extended periods. Many of these shelters also included small hospitals and the necessary equipment to set up independent command centers. In fact, homes built after WW2 were often made with over 40 cm (16 in.) thick concrete ceilings to help them survive aerial bombings. If your home didn’t accommodate such a shelter, you had to pay a tax to support places that did.

It’s also rumoured that much of Switzerland’s gold supply as well as vast supplies of food stores have been similarly squirreled away somewhere in the Alps, which comprise just over half of the country’s total land area.

As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.

Since the end of the Cold War (see How Did the Cold War Start and End), similar to how the Swiss government has been slowly disarming its population and reducing its standing army, decommissioning some of these fortifications has begun in order to reduce government spending. The Swiss government is somewhat coy about the extent of this disarming, but it has been reported that many of the more extreme defenses, such as the explosives that used to be hidden inside the country’s bridges and along its road and railways, have been removed. As for the bunkers, unfortunately, simply abandoning many of these facilities is not an option, and it’s fairly expensive to decommission them.

As such, as the head of security policy for the federal Department of Defense, Christian Catrina, said “…in most cases we’d be glad if someone would take them off our hands for no price”.

In some cases, this has resulted in companies using the ridiculously well protected and secure mountain facilities as data repositories and server farms. In one such converted bunker, the servers inside are even completely protected from outside electromagnetic impulses that result from nuclear explosions.

In another, detailed instructions on how to build devices for reading all known data storage formats, even older formats like floppy disks, are kept, so that if that knowledge is otherwise lost, future generations can still decode our data storage devices to access the data within correctly. Essentially, the researchers involved in this particular project have attempted to create a “Rosetta Stone” of data formats and are using a ridiculously secure Swiss bunker as the storage point for that knowledge.

As a result of military downsizing, the fate of the rest of the fortifications is unclear and there are calls to decommission all of them, despite the estimated billion dollar price tag to do so. There is even a growing minority of the Swiss population who would like to see the entire military disbanded, including ceasing mandatory conscription.

But for now, at least, any country that wishes to ignore Switzerland’s long-held neutrality in military conflicts will find the tiny country an exceptionally difficult one to conquer and occupy. And presumably if war ever again threatens Swiss’ borders, regardless of how small they make their military today, they’ll likely keep themselves in a position to rapidly ramp back up their defences as they did for WW1 and WW2.

Bonus Facts:

  • Shortly before WW2, Switzerland passed the Swiss Banking Act, which allowed bank accounts to be created anonymously, in no small part to allow German Jews to squirrel their liquid assets away into accounts that the Third Reich would have difficulty finding out about or getting access to.
  • The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by United States soldiers after WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”. The company that makes Swiss Army Knives is Victorinox, named after the founder, Karl Elsener’s, deceased mother, Victoria. The “nox” part comes from the fact that stainless steel is also known as “inox”, which is short for the French term “inoxydable”.
  • Karl Elsener himself was originally the owner of a surgical equipment company. He later took over production of the original Modell 1890 knives, which were previously made in Germany. He moved the production to Switzerland and greatly improved the design of the original multi-tool. His big breakthrough came when he figured out a way to put blades on both sides of the handle using the same spring to hold both sides in place. This allowed him to put twice as many features into the multi-tool as was previously possible.
  • There has been a “fact” floating around that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per citizen and the lowest rate of people killed by firearms per year, but this isn’t correct. Switzerland is actually 4th in number of guns per 100 people (at 45.7 guns per 100), though does maintain a relatively low number of deaths per year due to firearms at just 3.84 per 100,000, which is good enough for 19th place overall. However, it should also be noted that 3.15 of those deaths per 100,000 are suicide. Their homicide rate (.52 per 100,000) is good enough for 31st place, with the rest of deaths from firearms (.17 per 100,000) being either accidental or undetermined.
  • While the United States has by far the most guns per capita at 94.3 guns per 100 residents, it is only 12th in firearm related deaths per capita at 10.3 per 100,000 people. 6.3 of those 10.3 firearm related deaths are suicides. This equates to the U.S. being in 14th place on the number of firearm related homicides per 100,000 and overall 103rd as far as total murders per 100,000 at 4.8. For reference, that’s four times the murders per 100,000 than the United Kingdom, which sits in 169th place in murders per 100,000.
  • Number 1 by far in firearm related deaths per 100,000 is Honduras with 64.8 deaths per 100,000 from firearms. Surprisingly, Honduras only has 6.2 guns for every 100 people in the country. Honduras also has the highest rate of murders per 100,000 overall at 91.6.
  • On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants specifically from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

Everything we know about the upcoming ‘Star Wars’ game

A huge new “Star Wars” game is on the verge of being fully revealed: “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is expected to arrive later this year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Even better: The game is being made by Respawn Entertainment, the same studio behind the excellent “Titanfall” series and recent blockbuster “Apex Legends.”

So what is it? Here’s everything we know so far:


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No, not this Jedi — “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” takes place long before Rey was born.

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

1. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is a third-person action game starring a Jedi as the playable character.

Given the naming convention, you probably already guessed it: “Fallen Order” stars a Jedi.

That means, unlike “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” this game is no shooter. Instead, it’s a third-person action game that focuses on lightsaber-based combat.

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(LucasFilm)

2. It takes place between the events of “Episode 3” and “Episode 4.”

Spoilers for “Episode 3” ahead! In “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (“Episode 3”), a very moody Anakin Skywalker — before turning into everyone’s favorite cyborg, Darth Vader — sets out to destroy the Jedi Order.

It’s part of a bigger jedi purge, known as “Order 66.” Few Jedi survive the purge, but apparently the main character in “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is one of those few.

The game follows “a young Padawan’s journey in the Dark Times following Order 66,” according to Disney.

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(EA/Disney/Respawn Entertainment)

3. It’s likely to involve stealth gameplay.

In a tweet this week, the official “Star Wars” gaming account from Electronic Arts published the image above with the text, “Don’t stand out.”

Given the time period of the game, it’s very likely that the main character — a Jedi — is trying to stay out of sight. When the game was announced in June 2018, Respawn Entertainment head Vince Zampella referred to its setting as “dark times.”

What that means for gameplay is that stealth is almost certainly involved. After all, even the most adept Jedi couldn’t withstand the collective force of the Imperial Clone army.

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(EA/Disney/Respawn Entertainment)

4. It’s scheduled to arrive in “holiday 2019.”

When the game was announced in June 2018, it was given a “holiday 2019” release window by Respawn Entertainment head Vince Zampella. Given that the next major “Star Wars” movie is set to arrive on Dec. 20, 2019, we’d guess that “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” will arrive somewhere in the vicinity of December or November 2019.

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The image above leaked ahead of the official reveal, and it offered fans an early look at what to expect from the upcoming game.

(EA/Disney/Respawn Entertainment)

5. There appears to be a droid of some form alongside the main character.

As you may have noticed in the image above, next to the Jedi is an adorable little droid. It appears as though that droid will star alongside the game’s main character — perhaps as an assistant? Or maybe it offers help in puzzle-solving situations? We’ll see!

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(Apex Legends/Electronic Arts)

6. It’s being made by the folks who made “Apex Legends” and “Titanfall,” Respawn Entertainment.

Respawn Entertainment, an EA-owned game studio, has only produced excellent games. Starting with “Titanfall” and, most recently, “Apex Legends,” Respawn Entertainment has a near-perfect record.

That said, Respawn Entertainment is known for creating first-person shooters — before Respawn, many of the studio’s employees developed the most iconic “Call of Duty” games. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is the studio’s first attempt at character action.

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(Disney)

7. The game is getting detailed during a panel at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago on April 13, 2019.

Ready to learn more? Good news: Disney’s about to tell everyone a lot more about “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” on April 13, 2019!

During a panel at the Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago, Disney is scheduled to reveal many more details about the upcoming game.

Here’s the full panel description:

“Join the head of Respawn Entertainment, Vince Zampella, and Game Director, Stig Asmussen, along with many special guests, to be the first to learn about this holiday’s highly anticipated action adventure game, ‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.’ Hear how Respawn and Lucasfilm collaborated on this original Star Wars story, following a young Padawan’s journey in the Dark Times following Order 66. And of course, we’ll have a few surprises in store.”

You can watch the panel live on Saturday at the Star Wars YouTube channel right here.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The military spends millions to not upgrade computers

The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.


Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?

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The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.

The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.

But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.

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Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)

When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.

(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)

If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.

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Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.

(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)

And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.

So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.

And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.

While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.

So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.

But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.

Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”


Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.

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Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)

At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.

“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”

For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.

In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.

Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”

Jay Dobyns-Killing a Mongol

www.youtube.com

As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.

It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.

“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”

The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.

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The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)

“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”

Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.

Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.

Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”

Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.

The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.


According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.

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A Navy F-4 Phantom drops bombs over Vietnam. Hernandez flew 147 missions in the Vietnam War, and was shot down twice. (US Navy photo)

Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.

His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.

During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.

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USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), one of the commands Vice Adm. Hernandez held during his 36-year military career. (US Navy photo)

“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.

After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.

“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.

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Adm. Hernandez was deputy commander of NORAD, which included the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

After his retirement, he served with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Minority Veterans as a member of the Advisory Committee. He also helped plan for the future transportation needs of Miami-Dade County, highlighted by the opening of the Port Miami Tunnel in 2014.

Admiral Hernandez’s funeral will be held Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Miami Lakes.

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