As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here's what we learned - We Are The Mighty
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As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

James Ruvalcaba was the lead operational planner and Joe Plenzler was the public affairs officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. They were responsible for authoring the III MEF CONPLAN 5003 to protect all U.S. forces, their families, and Defense Department personnel in Japan. They are both retired Marine lieutenant colonels.

As former lead operational planners for the Biohazard Defense Contingency Plan for all military service members, their families and Defense Department employees in Japan, we noticed the strong possibility of a COVID-19 pandemic in early February of this year.

There are lessons to be learned from an earlier viral outbreak.


In response to the H5N1 or “bird flu” outbreak in 2005, President George W. Bush issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (PI) that November.

Thirteen days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace issued a planning order (PLANORD) directing all combatant commanders to conduct execution-level planning for a DoD response to pandemic influenza.

The guidance was clear and broad: Develop a contingency plan that specifically addressed the three major missions of force health protection, defense support for civil authorities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

As leaders of the planning efforts, we recruited medical experts and researched preventive health materials from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and disease exposure control studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This 18-month planning effort included tabletop exercises with State Department officials and local government officials and resulted in a 650-page biohazard response plan for all Marine Corps forces in Japan.

The plan also involved the additional major mission of continuity of operations to ensure that local governments and military installations continued to provide essential and emergency services during a pandemic.

The plan required all units and critical support agencies and businesses to classify their employees or service members as nonessential, essential or emergency-essential personnel.

The lessons we learned in this comprehensive 2005 planning effort are extensive, but they have not been fully implemented in response to COVID-19.

So what can policymakers, emergency medical responders and today’s planners learn from our plan?

Expect a “new normal” until a proven vaccine is developed. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings must continue until the population has been vaccinated and the current COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.

Just like we adapted to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks by instituting new security measures, we must also adapt to the pandemic by continuing social distancing measures until a proven vaccine has been developed, tested and administered to the entire global community. We must do this to avoid subsequent pandemic waves.

Our plan operated under the advice from health experts that a vaccine may take about a year to develop and that it will take months more for it to be readily available to the entire population. We recommend that the vaccine be prioritized and allocated first to medical responders and other personnel designated as emergency-essential responders. Local public health experts should draft immunization plans, to include the prioritization of immunizations to emergency-essential personnel.

The public should expect to experience additional shortages of medical equipment. We’ve seen the shortages of N95 masks, ventilators and ICU beds in hospitals; however, when restrictive measures are eased or lifted, our planning revealed that there will be a huge demand for infrared thermal detection systems (IR thermometers) in order to conduct public health febrile surveillance — especially prior to boarding flights or mass transportation. The post-pandemic environment will most likely involve febrile screenings to ensure viral threats are contained.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

Ongoing surveillance and contact tracing are extremely critical after the first pandemic wave is contained to a manageable level, in order to prevent a second wave or spreading it to another region. We should leverage technology in our smartphones to self-report if we have been in contact with infected people. China successfully implemented these protocols in Wuhan province through a phone app.

The demand for mortuary services may exceed available capacity. Additionally, new protocols must be established for conducting funerals.

Public Service Announcements are critical to shape public action to comply with evolving restrictive measures implemented by public health officials. Additionally, PSAs alleviate fear and anxiety by providing reassurance and critical educational material to assist the public in helping to contain and reduce the pandemic. Simply stated, PSAs help to reset the expectations of the evolving crisis and the associated escalatory or de-escalatory restrictive measures.

A pandemic may produce a second wave after the first outbreak, and sometimes even a second cycle outbreak after a few seasons. This is due to previously undetected pockets of viral outbreaks, a lapse in compliance to restrictive measures, the reintroduction of the virus from an external source, or the possibility of the virus mutating gradually by antigenic drift, or abruptly by antigenic shift. It is important for medical responders, public officials and the public to understand that we must not let our guard down when we start seeing a reduction in the transmissibility of the COVID virus or a reduction in the number of people infected.

We cannot lean on unfounded messages of hope; rather, we should look to science and condition-based assessments to decide when to ease or lift restrictive measures. The message to policymakers and high-ranking preventive health officials is clear: Demand science-based justifications for lifting restrictive measures.

For all that have closely tracked the evolution of this COVID-19 virus from its initial outbreak to a pandemic, the writing on the wall is obvious: National leaders made grave mistakes by not taking the threat seriously.

The lack of early mitigation has now cost us more than 427,000 sick Americans, more than 14,000 deaths and more than .3 trillion.

Our nation is paying a terrible cost for not taking this pandemic seriously enough, early enough. We must act in earnest to implement these lessons to help contain the viral spread so we can safely ease the restrictive measures while preventing a second pandemic wave or subsequent pandemic cycle.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

ISIS is throwing reinforcements into Mosul battle as coalition tightens the noose

The Islamic State is throwing as many fighters as it can into the Iraqi city of Mosul in a desperate attempt to push back against coalition forces, according to the Pentagon.


As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The support provided by the Paladin teams denies the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant safe havens while providing the ISF with vital artillery capabilities during their advance. The United States stands with a Coalition of more than 60 international partners to assist and support the Iraqi security forces to degrade and defeat ISIL. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

ISIS reinforcements from Syria and Iraq are entering Mosul from areas west of the city, which are still under the terrorist group’s control. ISIS leaders inside the city have been forced to conscript administration officials and other non-traditional fighters in order to counter the coalition’s offensive.

“ISIL continues to augment its manpower from the outside,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Monday. “We see them taking administrative and support personnel, people who are not normally involved in arms, and they are arming them.”

Davis noted that despite the reinforcements, ISIS is having difficulty with its command and control capabilities thanks in part to coalition air strikes.

ISIS’s decision to arm every potential fighter it can is not surprising. The terrorist group is woefully outnumbered, with less than 5,000 fighters in the city. In turn, the Iraqi Security Forces have deployed 18,000 men, while the Kurdish Peshmerga have fielded around 10,000. Approximately 2,000 Iraqi federal police are also supplementing the coalition force.

While coalition forces clearly have the upper hand, Davis noted they are experiencing “heavy resistance” from ISIS as they move closer to the Mosul city limits. ISIS has engaged in increasingly desperate tactics as they lose control of the city, including waves of suicide bombers, car bombs and burning oil fields. In some cases, they have resorted to using suicide bombers to cover the retreat of their personnel.

The Pentagon expects foreign fighters to be particularly dangerous targets, as many of them burned their passports upon entering the so-called caliphate.

“Those are the people we expect to stay in Mosul and fight to the death, they don’t have a lot of other good options,” said Davis.

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Why Iran is ‘playing with fire’ in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

For the fifth time in about a month Iranian fast-attack craft have harassed US Navy ships with “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers at sea in the gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran.


While experts acknowledge that Iran is “playing with fire” against the best navy in the world, don’t expect these incidents to stop any time soon.

“The number of unsafe, unprofessional interactions for first half of the year is nearly twice as much as same period in 2015, trend has continued. There’s already more in 2016 than all of 2015,” Commander Bill Urban of the Navy’s 5th fleet told Business Insider in a phone interview.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Urban stressed that despite the Iranian navy fast-attack craft being several orders of magnitude less potent than US Navy ships, the threat they pose in the gulf is very real.

“Any time another vessel is charging in on one of your ships and they’re not talking on the radio … you don’t know what their intentions are,” said Urban.

Urban confirmed that Iran sends small, fast attack ships to “swarm” and “harass” larger US Naval vessels that could quite easily put them at the bottom of the ocean, but the ships pose a threat beyond firepower.

According to Urban, these ships are “certainly armed vessels with crew-manned weapons, not unarmed ships. I wouldn’t discount the ability to be a danger. A collision at sea even with a much larger ship is always something that could cause damage to a ship or injure personnel.”

In the most recent episode at sea, Urban said that an Iranian craft swerved in front of the USS Firebolt, a US Coastal Patrol craft, and stopped dead in its path, causing the Firebolt to have to adjust course or risk collision.

“This kind of provocative, harassing technique risks escalation and miscalculation.”

The messages Iran wants to send

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Picture of US Sailors captured by Iranian fast-attack craft in the Gulf. | Released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

“In my view, Khamenei (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic) decided it’s time to send a message — I’m here and I’m unhappy,” Cliff Kupchan, Chairman of Eurasia Group and expert on Iran, told Business Insider in a phone interview.

According to Kupchan, the Iranian navy carries out these stunts under directions straight from the top because of frustrations with the Iran nuclear deal. Despite billions of dollars in sanction relief flowing into Iran following the deal, Kupchan says Iran sees the US as “preventing European and Asian banks from moving into Iran and financing Iranian businesses,” and therefore not holding up their end of the Iran nuclear deal.

But despite their perception that the US has under delivered on the promises of the Iran nuclear deal, Kupchan says Iran will absolutely not walk away from the deal, which has greatly improved their international standing and financial prospects.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran’s oil has resulted in “billions in additional revenue … They’re not gonna walk away from that.”

So Iran seems to be simply spinning their wheels to score political points with hardliners, but what if the worst happens and there is a miscalculation in a conflict between Iranian and US naval vessels resulting in the loss of life?

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
The coastal patrol ship USS Squall, one of the ships harassed by the Iranians. | US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Michelle Turner

“The concern is miscalculation,” said Kupchan. “Some guy misjudges the speed of his boat, people could die. There is a lot on the line.”

According to Kupchan, as well as other experts on the subject, Iran’s navy doesn’t stand a serious chance against modern US Navy ships.

“Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps boats and the Iranian Navy are not very capable or modern,” said Kupchan. The fast-attack craft we’ve seen challenge US Navy boats have simply been older speed boats, some Russian-made, outfitted with guns.

The Iranian craft can certainly bother US Navy ships by risking collisions and functioning as “heavily armed gnats, or mosquitoes” that swarm US ships, but a recent test carried out by the Navy confirms that the gunships wouldn’t have much trouble knocking them out of the water. The ensuing international incident, however, would dominate headlines for weeks.

“The wood is dry in US and Iranian relations,” said Kupchan, suggesting that a small miscalculation could spark a major fire, and that harassing these ships is “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam.”

“Hardliners on both sides would go nuts,” said Kupchan, referencing both the conservative Islamist Iranians and the conservative US hawks who would not pass up any opportunity to impinge Obama over his perceived weakness against the Iranians.

Yet Kupchan contends that even a lethal incident would not end the deal. Both sides simply have too much riding on the deal’s success: Obama with his foreign policy legacy, and Iran with their financial redemption and status in the region as the main adversary to Western powers.

However Iran’s Khamenei may be sending a second message to incoming US leadership, specifically Hillary Clinton, who seems likely to be the next commander in chief. “They know Clinton is tough,” said Kupchan, and Khamenei may be addressing Clinton with a second message, saying “Madame Secretary, I’m still here, I know you’re tough, but I’m ready.”

For now, Kupchan expects these incidents at sea to carry on as Iran vents about their larger frustrations, and that a violent exchange would “not be the end of the deal,” or the start of a larger war, “but a serious international incident.”

Articles

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is this a pandemic-proof career for military spouses?

The latest jobs report shows 21 million Americans out of work, largely attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new for spouses who have seen increased efforts over the years to elevate the plight of a demographic working to establish a career around military life. But is there a career field immune from PCS moves and pandemics? The CEO of Squared Away thinks so.

Michelle Penczak, a Marine spouse, co-founded Squared Away in 2017 to give military spouses opportunities that demand a range of skills, like social media, project management, and human resources. The company has now grown to 95 and she says the field is “extremely sustainable” even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


“Most of our clients are taking their businesses remotely and are leaning on us to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also add a great amount of value to teams who have been forced to downsize but still have the need of an assistant,” Penczak said in an email interview.

Squared Away was inspired by Penczak’s own challenges in maintaining employment as her husband, a Marine officer, received orders to different duty stations around the U.S. She initially worked as a personal assistant to a lobbyist in Washington, DC. until relocating to Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The transition from a large city to a small military town was difficult in terms of finding comparable employment.

“No one would hire me … it was so defeating and I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way,” she said.

Eventually, after many interviews and rejections, she found employment as a virtual assistant with Zirtual. However, it was not long after the business closed, but lingering clients wanted her to remain with their companies. Then her husband received orders to Hawaii.

“I was terrified I would lose my clients,” Penczak said because her clients operated on Eastern time. “So, I got up at 3 am to work with my East Coast clients.”

She said she told herself it would never work, but six months into it her husband encouraged her to change her thinking.

“He said, ‘It’s working.’ I would drive myself out of bed [at 3am PCT] and do my stuff. Then I’d have all the rest of the day to hang out in Hawaii which wasn’t a bad deal. I became more productive and it worked better for me. My co-founder [Shane Mac] told me, ‘I need you to build a company.’ I told him he was crazy. I had no idea how to run a company,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days and said let’s do this.”

Squared Away places virtual assistants with a myriad of companies to include venture capital firms, startup companies, and marketing firms. Penzcak added that the company does not invest in marketing. She notes her client base has grown exponentially over the past year strictly from a referral base.

“Anyone who needs extra supports … They become their righthand man … All of our clients are saying how much they love us, working with amazing people who believe in our mission. I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. My team is amazing,” she said.

Squared Away employs military spouses stationed within the U.S., along with remote assistants in Germany as well.

“Nothing feels better than one of my girls coming to say … you are making such a big difference to me and my family,” Penczak said.

The company’s structure also allows its team members to balance personal and professional responsibilities.

“All of our spouses have a unique story … We can be dedicated to our clients, but also be flexible to be there for our kids. Currently, we have 110 clients … it’s growing steadily. The more clients the more assistants we can hire,” she said.

Penczak’s 2020 goals include expansion of her team.

She offers a message to anyone adapting to a different kind of virtual working environment during COVID-19.

“Give yourself some grace. Everyone is going through this together and most have kids and spouses home. Don’t require perfection from yourself,” she said.

Visit https://gosquaredaway.com to learn more about Squared Away’s career opportunities for military spouses and services for businesses.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of June 24th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fires flares during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 21, 2017. The F-15, a component of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, supports U.S. and coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride

U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander, looks back to his wingman during his final F-22 Raptor flight over Charlottesville, Va., June 21, 2017. The Raptor is a 5th-generation fighter jet that combines stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Natasha Stannard

Army:

Soldiers of the 100th Battalion donned Ghillie suits, June 18, 2017, in preparation for their mock ambush on opposing forces during their annual training at Kahuku Training Area.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Photo by Staff Sgt. Gail Lapitan

An M1A1 Abrams from Task Force Dagger plays the role of Opposing Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the 278th Armored Brigade Combat Team with a near-peer opponent during the unit’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation May 30 – June 21. Task Force Dagger consisted of the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s forces and was supplemented by units from five other states during the exercise.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Warner

Navy:

The Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) is underway alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) during a replenishment-at-sea. Kidd is underway with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob M. Milham

Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) prepare to participate in an M9 pistol shoot on the ship’s port aircraft elevator. The ship and its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Evan Thompson

Marine Corps:

Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. For the first time, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy

U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, exit a CH-53E from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 772, 4th Marine Air Wing, MARFORRES, to perform a rehearsal for the Air Assault Course as a part of the battalion final exercise for Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, June 21, 2017. ITX is a Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training exercise featuring combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy

Coast Guard:

A 25-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) conducts a coastal safety and security patrol while escorting Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, back to Magic Island, Oahu, June 17, 2017. The Hōkūleʻa returned home after being gone for 36 months, sailing approximately 40,000 nautical miles around the world.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

A member of the U.S Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s silent drill team waits prior to performing at a sunset salute program, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The team performed in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the festivities surrounding Sail Boston.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why John McCain accused Trump of emboldening Assad in Syria

US Senator John McCain, on April 8, 2018, criticized President Donald Trump for recently saying he is in favor of pulling US troops out of Syria.

McCain said Trump’s comments, that he wants to “get out” of Syria and “bring our troops home,” emboldened Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to launch a suspected chemical attack against civilians on April 7, 2018.


“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria,” McCain, who is also the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

“Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women, and children, this time in Douma. Initial accounts show dozens of innocent civilians, including children, have been targeted by this vicious bombardment designed to burn, and choke the human body and leave victims writhing in unspeakable pain,” he said.

According to reports, at least 40 people suffocated to death and hundreds more were injured from a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma in eastern Ghouta on April 7, 2018. Some estimates put the death toll closer to 150.

Local pro-opposition group Ghouta Media Center said the attack was carried out by a helicopter, which dropped a barrel bomb containing sarin gas. The US State Department confirmed reports of the attack and “a potentially high number of casualties” on April 7, 2018.

Graphic images from the attack have been posted on social media.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

President Trump was quick to call out Assad for the violence in a tweet on April 8, 2018: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price … to pay.” It was also the first time Trump has called out Putin by name on Twitter.

In his statement, McCain acknowledged Trump’s quick response on Twitter but said, “the question now is whether he will do anything about it.”

McCain said the president needs to “act decisively” in his response to Assad’s alleged involvement in the chemical attack, and to “demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

Some US lawmakers have called on the president to respond militarily to the use of chemical weapons, and have suggested a “targeted attack” on chemical weapons facilities.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 2nd

Ah, springtime. It’s almost that beautiful time of year again.


Junior enlisted are happy, NCOs are yelling at them to downgrade to the summer PT uniform, and sergeant majors can finally see their beloved grass before a dumb butter bar walks on it. Rumor has it that the warrant officer might have even come out of hibernation!

For once, things are optimistic. Pizza MREs are coming, the Army is getting its Pinks and Greens back, and a sweet pay increase is coming. So, take it easy. Relax. Enjoy the smell of freshly cut memes.

13. Every. Single. Time.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

12. “What are they going to do? Kick me out — oh…”

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

11. Holding random clipboards or putting your cellphone up to your ear also works.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Walk with a sense of purpose and people will think you’re doing things. (Meme via Air Force Nation)

10. We get enough opinions from the “Good Idea Fairy;” we don’t need anymore.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Anyone who thinks any troops have feelings immediately loses their right to be heard. (Meme via Decelerate your Life)

9. The beard comes standard with every DD-214.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
The alcoholism never fades, though. (Meme via Reddit)

8. Any troop who says they haven’t had to open an MRE packet with their mouth is a damn liar.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via Reddit)

7. Perfect, until you drop something…

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via Reddit)

6. Will Gunny ever relax? Will we ever find the WO? Tune in next week.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via Reddit)

5. They’re not mutually exclusive.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

4. Eye for an eye. Next time they try to miss formation and lie about being “at dental,” get their asses.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

3. If Big Army took the same approach, maybe everyone would get their SSD1 done.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

2. Roger. We get it. Can we go home already?

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
(Meme via The Salty Sailor)

1. POG is a state of mind, not an MOS.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned
Shots fired. (Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s next move in the trade war could threaten US F-35s

China is threatening the US with the possibility that it may withhold rare earth elements critical to the production of a number of different US products, including missiles and stealth fighters.

The US has been turning up the heat on China in the ongoing trade war. Now, Chinese media is warning that China can up the stakes.

“United States, don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back,” the People’s Daily, the paper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote May 29, 2019, according to Reuters.

“Will rare earths become a counter weapon for China to hit back against the pressure the United States has put on for no reason at all? The answer is no mystery,” the newspaper explained in a commentary, ominously adding, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you!”


Other Chinese media outlets released similar articles.

Rare earth elements, of which China produces the overwhelming majority, play an important role in the production of defense systems. For example, a US Navy Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine requires 9,200 pounds of rare earth metals, while an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer needs 5,200 pounds.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class RJ Stratchko)

US defense contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin use rare earth metals to make high-end guidance systems and sensors for missiles and other military platforms, Reuters reported.

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth jet built to give the US an edge over rivals like China, requires 920 pounds of rare earth materials, according to Asia Times, which reported that the US has an almost nonexistent ability to produce rare earth materials.

“The US side wants to use the products made by China’s exported rare earths to counter and suppress China’s development,” the People’s Daily argued May 29, 2019. “The Chinese people will never accept this!”

The paper’s rhetoric suggests that China would intentionally take aim at the US defense sector, which Beijing believes is working to contain China’s rise.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The US relies on China for as much as 80% of its rare earth materials, according to Bloomberg. “Rare earths are a niche specialty and critical to the Defense Department,” Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told the outlet.

“Rare earths are essential to the production, sustainment, and operation of US military equipment,” a 2016 Government Accountability Office report explained, adding that “Reliable access to the necessary material, regardless of the overall level of defense demand, is a bedrock requirement for DOD.”

Were China to pull the plug, it could certainly lead to complications, although there is the possibility that the department could turn to alternative sources given that its requirement is only 1% of the total US demand for rare earth elements.

Beijing has not yet said that it will take this step, but is certainly troubling that Chinese media is threatening this move as a potential response to US actions in the trade war.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Maple Leafs’ tribute to the victims of the Toronto van incident

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a stunning tribute to the victims that died after a van rammed through several pedestrians in Toronto on April 23, 2018.

During the hockey match against the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs’ announcer referenced the incident in which a van hit and killed at least 10 people and injured 15.


“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, our first responders, and to all those affected,” the announcer said during the game. “All of Toronto is with you.”

After observing a brief moment of silence, the crowd cheered and sang along in unison with singer Martina Ortiz-Luis for the national anthem.

Around 1:30 p.m. local time, a van jumped the sidewalk and plowed through a busy intersection in downtown Toronto.

Police arrested a male suspect who is believed to have been previously known to Toronto officials. The suspect, identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was arrested after threatening to brandish a firearm. According to law enforcement officials, the incident is believed to have been deliberate.

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

Articles

9 of the most evil weapons of all time

Of course, anything made to kill another human being has an element of dubiousness about it; but some designs go above and beyond merely killing and add suffering to the equation. Here are nine of these evil weapons:


1. Boiling Oil/Hot Tar

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

One of the earliest forms of evil weapons. When defending a castle, use arrows and spears and rocks to simply kill. Use hot tar to terrorize and demoralize the enemy as well as kill him.

2. Mustard Gas

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

Mustard gas was first used in battle by the Germans in World War I with the expressed intent of demoralizing the enemy rather than kill him. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Source: Wikipedia)

3. V-1 Buzz Bomb

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

The V-1 rockets were not intended to hit specific targets, but instead, they were designed terrorize the population of England during World War II.

4. Flamethrower

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

What do you do when you don’t want to crawl into tunnels and pull Japanese soldiers out of their hiding places one-by-one? You strap on your flamethrower and burn them out — a torturous way to go.

5. Firebombing

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

Firebombing is an air attack technique that combines blast bombing with incendiaries to yield much more destruction than blast bombs would alone. The Germans firebombed Coventry and London in 1940, and the British paid them back in spades toward the end of the war, most notably at Dresden.

6. Atomic Bomb

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

Since August of 1945 service academies and war colleges have studied the calculus of using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but regardless of whether the strategy ultimately saved lives that would have been lost during a manned invasion of the Japanese homeland, it inflicted great suffering on the population in the form of destruction on an unprecedented scale and the follow-on radiation poisoning.

7. Anti-personnel Mines

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

These mines are designed to maim, not necessarily to kill. Stepping on them causes the mechanism to bounce up to pelvis level before exploding, causing maximum suffering before a slow painful death.

8. Punji Sticks

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

An evil booby trap most notoriously associated with the Vietnam War, Punji Sticks were a low-fi weapon used by the Vietcong to terrorize American forces patrolling the jungle. The sharp sticks were hidden under tarps or trap doors covered with brush, and they inflicted nasty and painful wounds to lower extremities.

9. Napalm

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

A bomb full of a gelling agent and petroleum, Napalm was originally used against buildings but later became an anti-personnel weapon. The flaming goo that erupts when the weapon goes high order sticks to skin and causes severe burns.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this footage of life on a 1960’s aircraft carrier

The footage below is taken from “Flying Clipper,” a “monumental documentary about the adventures of a Swedish sailing ship, which travels into the Mediterranean in the early 1960s.”

Filmed in 1962 with specially designed 70mm cameras, “Flying Clipper” was the first German film produced in this high-resolution large format. The documentary was recently scanned in 4K and digitally restored, so that it could be marketed as 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD.

Besides the Côte d’Azur, the Greek islands and the pyramids of Egypt, “Flying Clipper” included also more than 5 minutes of footage from aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy.


With the CVG-10 on board, the USS Shangri-La was involved in a 6-month Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 6th Fleet Area Of Responsibility between February and August 1962. The clip shows with outstanding details the “blue waters operations” of the F4D-1 Skyray fighters with the VF-13; the A-4D Skyhawks of the VA-106 and VA-46; and the F-8U Crusaders of the VMF-251 and VFP-2.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JROmHzavjA8
USS Shangri-La

www.youtube.com

You can also spot some AD-6 Skyraider of the VA-176 while the opening scene shows the vivid colors of one of the HUP-3 helicopter of the HU-2.

There was much less technology aboard to launch and recover aircraft, and “bolters” (when the aircraft misses the arresting cable on the flight deck) and “wave-offs” (a go around during final approach) were seemingly quite frequent.

By the way, don’t you like the high-visibility markings sported by the aircraft back then?

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s longing for former Soviet Union hits 14-year high

More Russians regret the breakup of the Soviet Union than at any other time since 2004, an opinion poll shows.

In a survey whose results were published on Dec. 19, 2018, two-thirds — or 66 percent — of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether they regret the 1991 Soviet collapse.

That is up from 58 percent a year earlier and is the highest proportion since 2004, the last year of President Vladimir Putin’s first term, Levada said.


One-quarter of respondents said they do not regret the Soviet breakup, the lowest proportion since 2005, and 9 percent said they could not answer.

Putin, president from 2000-08 and 2012 to the present, has often played up the achievements of the Soviet Union while playing down some of its darkest chapters.

In 2005, Putin called the Soviet breakup the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, citing the large numbers of Russians it left outside Russia.

As military planners, we strategized for a pandemic—here’s what we learned

In March 2018, when asked what event in the country’s history he would like to have been able to change, he named the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Levada said that Russians’ concerns about their economic security today were among the main reasons for the increase in the number voicing regret.

A highly unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by five years has stoked antigovernment sentiment and pushed Putin’s own approval ratings down in 2018.

The peak of regret over the Soviet collapse came in 2000, when 75 percent of Russian polled by Levada answered “yes” to the same question.

In 2018, Levada surveyed 1,600 people nationwide in the Nov. 22-28, 2018 poll.

The pollster said that 52 percent of respondents named the collapse of the Soviet Union’s “single economic system” as the main thing they regretted.

Worries about their current economic situation and prospects were a major factor for many of those respondents, Levada said.

At the same time, 36 percent said they miss the “feeling of belonging to a great power,” and 31 percent lamented mistrust and cruelty in society.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.