Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We're Abandoning Them - We Are The Mighty
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Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

airaslt (powers w elders) A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.

“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.

It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.

Also Read: This Powerful Film Tells How Marines Fought ‘One Day Of Hell’ In Fallujah 

I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.

Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.

As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.

This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.

Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.

Take Jerry for example.

Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.

Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.

“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.

Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”

Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.

I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.

His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.

Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.

“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”

I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.

Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.

They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.

NOW: The Mighty Taps: 9 Famous Veterans Who Died In 2014

OR: Brigade Combat Team Is Headed To Iraq To Do Everything But Engage In Combat 

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This is why Trump’s Afghanistan strategy is controversial

In keeping with his elevation of military leaders to roles in policymaking, President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to set US troop levels in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary James Mattis, though that power reportedly comes with limits.


But the administration has yet to settle on an overarching strategy for the US’ nearly 16-year-long campaign in the war-torn country.

And, according to The New York Times, Trump’s advisers have turned to a controversial set of consultants to help develop their new Afghanistan policy.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, called in Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater private-security firm, and Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp, to create proposals to use contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops.

According to the Times, Bannon was able to track down Mattis at the Pentagon on July 8 and brought in Prince and Feinberg to describe their proposal to the defense secretary.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
President Donald J. Trump, right, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD Photo by Army Sgt. James K. McCann

Mattis, whom the Times said “listened politely,” ultimately declined to include their ideas in his review of the war in Afghanistan, which he and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster are set to deliver to Trump this month.

Prince’s proposal reportedly adhered to what he outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year. In that editorial, he said the war in Afghanistan was “an expensive disaster” and called for “an American viceroy” in whom authority for the war would be consolidated. He also said the effort should take an “East India Company approach” using private military units working with local partners.

Prince and Feinberg’s inclusion in the administration’s Afghanistan policy-proposal process is of a piece with Trump’s advisers’ efforts to bring a wider array of options to the president’s attention. While their proposal looks unlikely to be included in the final plan, their inclusion by Trump aides raised alarm among observers — and not only because of Blackwater’s sordid record in Iraq.

Deborah Avant, a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, pointed out a number of shortcomings in the plan Prince outlined in The Journal.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Michael E. Best

Contractors would still be required to work with the Afghan government, just like US and NATO forces, she writes, who may not be receptive to their expanded presence.

Contractors also don’t integrate well with local political goals and forces, which is essential in counterinsurgency operations.

Avant also noted that empowering local partners in environments like Afghanistan had been shown to facilitate the rise of warlords — as generally happened under the East India Company when it worked in there in the 19th century.

Privatizing the war effort in Afghanistan would likely reduce some of the costs, however — a point that White House assistant Sebastian Gorka emphasized when he defended consultations with Prince in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper.

“If you look at Erik Prince’s track record, it’s not about bilking the government. It’s about the opposite,” Gorka said. “It’s about saving the US taxpayer money. It’s about creating indigenous capacity … This is a cost-cutting venture.”

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
Sebastian Gorka. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Despite that fact that Prince and Blackwater secured extensive and lucrative contracts under both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama, Gorka described consultations with the Blackwater founder as a break with the tired, uninformed thinking inculcated by Beltway insularity.

“We open the door here at the White House to outside ideas. Why?” Gorka said, adding, “Because the last eight years, in fact the last 16 years, Jake, to be honest, disastrous. The policies that were born in the beltway by people who’ve never worn a uniform, the people that were in the White House like Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl, they helped create the firestorm that is the Middle East, that is ISIS today. So we are open to new ideas, because the last 16 years have failed American national interest and the American taxpayer.”

When Tapper defended the qualifications of the people advising Obama, Gorka objected, calling Rhodes’ master’s degree in creative writing — “fictional writing,” he said — “disastrous.”

“I think Gorka spends more time following Twitter and prepping his media appearances than he does thinking seriously about critical national-security issues,” Kahl, who was deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice president from October 2014 to January 2017, told Business Insider.

“No US administration has had all the answers to the Middle East,” continued Kahl, who is now a professor in the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
Petty Officer 1st Class Carmichael Yepez, a combat camera photojournalist, from Fresno, Calif., assigned to Joint Combat Camera-Iraq, in Army combat uniform, poses with a group of British security contractors at Forward Operating Base, Marez, in Mosul. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Carmichael Yepez.)

“But the two biggest sources of the ‘firestorm’ Gorka refers to were the invasion of Iraq, which gave birth to the forerunner of ISIS and created a vacuum filled by Iran, and the 2011 Arab Spring that upended the state system across the Middle East and set in motion a series of bloody proxy wars,” he added. “Neither of these key events were a consequence of Obama’s policies.”

Kahl also cited specific accomplishments of the Obama administration, among them eroding Al Qaeda leadership, securing the Iran nuclear deal, and setting the stage for the destruction of ISIS.

Blaming Obama for the rise of ISIS has become prominent Republican talking point since the US withdrew from Iraq at the end 2011.

Trump himself has attributed the group’s emergence to both Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s secretary of state and Trump’s opponent in the presidential election.

The withdrawal date had been set by the Bush administration, but conservatives have criticized Obama for not making a deal with Baghdad to keep US troops on the ground there, which they say could’ve kept ISIS from gaining traction with Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
President Barack Obama meets with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in May 2009. (Photo by White House photographer Pete Souza)

Defenders have pointed to the US’ inability to quell insurgency in the country prior to its withdrawal, as well as Iraqi officials’ refusal to let US troops stay, as evidence that a protracted deployment was impossible and would have changed little. (Others attribute ISIS’ appearance to Bush’s dissolution of the Iraqi military.)

Since taking office, Trump appears to have embraced a more aggressive policy in the Middle East, underscored by several military engagements with pro-Syrian government forces in that country and by his hearty embrace of Saudi Arabia to the apparent detriment of unity among Gulf countries.

Kahl invoked these developments as reason for concern going forward.

“It is difficult to see how Trump’s approach, which combines a shoot-first mentality and an instinct to give regional autocrats a blank check to drag us into their sectarian conflicts, will make the region more secure or America safer,” he told Business Insider in an email.

“And the fact that Gorka and others in the White House are seriously contemplating turning America’s longest war in Afghanistan over to private military contractors who prioritize profit over the national interest is very troubling.”

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39 horrible technical errors in ‘GI Jane’

Ridley Scott’s “G.I. Jane” gave audiences an inside look into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, with Demi Moore starring as a female trainee.


Except it’s not called BUD/S — the movie calls it CRT for some reason — and the technical errors don’t stop there. We sat through two hours of sometimes horrific technical errors so you don’t have to. Here’s the 39 that we found.

1:53 Senator DeHaven references an F-14 crash at Coronado. Although it is possible that an F-14 could crash in the area, it’s worth pointing out that Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, has no F-14s assigned to it.

3:00 The senator says that nearly 1/4 of all jobs in the U.S. military are off-limits to women. It’s actually much closer to 1/5th.

4:31 The admiral makes the first mention of “C.R.T — Combined Reconnaissance Team,” which he refers to as SEALs. There’s no such thing as CRT. The training program that Navy SEALs go through is called BUD/S, or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL.

4:37 The admiral says SEAL training has a 60 percent drop-out rate. According to the Navy’s own figures, the drop-out rate is closer to 75-80 percent.

11:50 O’Neill says she has survived Jump School and Dive School. As an intel officer, it’s highly unlikely that she would ever attend these schools.

13:13 Royce mentions to Lt. O’Neill that BUD/S training is three months. It’s actually six.

14:01 Now we’re introduced to Catalano Naval Base in Florida. It doesn’t exist. BUD/S actually takes place at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, Calif.

14:21 Lt. O’Neill pulls up to the base in a Humvee. If she were going to a training school, she would’ve just driven a civilian vehicle or taken a taxi from the airport like everyone else. She wouldn’t be picked up by a driver in a tactical military vehicle (although that possibility could have happened but it would’ve been a government van).

14:23 The gate guard says “Carry on.” He’s enlisted, and she’s an officer. If anyone is going to say that, it’s going to be the officer, not the enlisted guy.

14:46 Yes, Lt. O’Neill is wearing a beret right now. And no, people in the Navy don’t ever wear one.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

20:00 Capt. Salem welcomes the new class and says they are all “proven operators in the Spec-Ops community.” He mentions that some of the trainees for CRT are SEALs. Why would SEALs be going through initial SEAL training? (This is just another screw-up coming from calling BUD/S the fictional “CRT.”)

20:07 Salem mentions that some of the trainees are from Marine Corps Force Recon. You can’t become a Navy SEAL unless you’re in the Navy.

26:20 A Huey helicopter is about 10 feet away from the trainees who are exercising in the water, but Command Master Chief Urgayle can give a rousing speech about pain that everyone can hear just fine.

26:50 After his speech about pain, Urgayle hops on the Huey and heads out. I wish I could have a Huey as a personal taxi to take me around.

36:27 Using an M-60 machine gun to fire over trainees’ heads is believable. The Master Chief using a sniper rifle to fire live rounds at trainees during training? That is not.

36:31 Are you frigging serious with this reticle pattern right now?

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

36:52 This course looks less like training and more like Beirut in the 80s. What the hell is with all the flames everywhere?

37:19 Now there is a jet engine shooting afterburner exhaust in trainees’ faces. Wtf?

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

39:00 Apparently the Master Chief has moved his sniper position from away in a bunker to the perspective of Lt. O’Neill, looking up at Cortez on top of the wall.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

48:56 The instructors throw two live smoke grenades and fire rounds from an MP-5 submachine gun to wake up the trainees. The sound doesn’t really match, unless they are shooting live rounds at people. In which case, it’s probably not a good idea to shoot live bullets at a cement floor.

53:01 I know Capt. Salem really likes his cigars, but smoking one during PT?

54:19 Lt. O’Neill gets waterboarded as Urgayle explains how effective the technique is at interrogation. This is not something taught at BUD/S.

57:07 The base gate says Naval Special Warfare Group Two. The base in the movie is located in Jacksonville, Fla., but the actual Group Two is based in Little Creek, Va.

1:05:44 Now the trainees head to SERE school, which the movie says is in Captiva Island, Fla. The Navy (or any other branch) does not hold SERE training at this location. Also, BUD/S trainees don’t attend SERE school. They would attend SERE after they earned the Navy SEAL Trident.

1:06:00 Instructor Pyro is giving a speech about SERE in the back of a noisy helicopter. The trainees wouldn’t be able to hear him.

1:09:36 Lt. O’Neill says over the radio: “Cortez, target ahead. Belay my last. New rally point my location.” She didn’t give Cortez an order, so saying “belay my last” — aka disregard that order — doesn’t make sense.

1:10:00 Slavonic wants to get a helmet at SERE school for a souvenir? Sure he’s a total idiot, but no one is that dumb.

1:12:32 Now that everyone is captured at SERE training, it’s worth pointing out that SERE is actually a three-week course, one week of which is dedicated to survival. Apparently GI Jane skipped straight to resistance.

1:30:00 Why the hell is there a baseball bat just sitting there next to ring-out bell? Oh, the director wanted to make Lt. O’Neill look like a badass. Ok.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

1:40:15 Lt. O’Neill is back in training, and now the trainees are on an Operational Readiness Exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, on a submarine. The Navy isn’t going to put trainees on a sub stationed overseas before they are SEALs while they are still undergoing BUD/S training.

1:42:28 The captain asks the Master Chief if the trainees are ready to conduct a real-world mission into Libya. He says yes, and the military viewing audience is — if they haven’t already — throwing things at their TVs.

1:49:19 There’s a firefight happening and bad guys coming towards them but these almost SEALs are literally smoking and joking.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

1:54:29 An M-16 firing doesn’t sound like a .50 caliber machine gun. But it does in this movie.

1:54:53 O’Neill fires her M203. The sound it makes is basically a “thoonk” sound. The movie sound effect is like a bottle rocket.

1:55:26 Ok, so basically every sound effect in this firefight sequence makes me want to shoot the TV.

1:56:36 This Cobra attack helicopter can easily shoot the bad guys from a distance. But let’s just go to 10 feet off the ground so the enemy has a chance to shoot the pilot in the face.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

1:57:03 The helicopter crew chief just shot a bad guy with his 9mm from 100 yards or so. That’s a pistol, not a sniper rifle.

1:59:00 Master Chief hands O’Neill her SEAL Trident and says “welcome aboard.” Except it’s not a trident. It’s some weird, made-up badge that says SEAL CRT. This is purely fictional, and made all the more ridiculous by the instructors themselves not wearing that badge but wearing the SEAL Trident instead.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

1:59:23 In the very next scene after the class graduates, O’Neill is seen wearing the SEAL Trident. Except she was just handed that fake SEAL CRT Badge.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

NOW CHECK OUT: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

MIGHTY TRENDING

Spec Ops leaders tell Congress they’re in the ‘risk business’

Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.

Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.


The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.

Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”

Not stretched thin

West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”

As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.

“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”

A more lethal force

Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.

“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.

To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.

“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.

Global mission sets

“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.

“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.

In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.

Emerging technologies

“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.

“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”

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This is why it’s better to be shot by an AK-47 than an M4

Admittedly, I’d rather not be shot with either, but if I had to choose, I’d take a round from the AK47 over the M4 any day of the week. To understand why, it’s important to have a very basic look at the physics behind terminal ballistics, in this case being the science of what happens when a penetrating missile enters a human body. The first place to start is the Kinetic Energy Equation:


KE = ½ M (V12 – V22)

Breaking this equation down into its components, we have Kinetic Energy (KE) influenced by the Mass (M) of the penetrating missile, as well as the Velocity (V) of the missile. This make sense, and it is logical that a heavier, faster missile is going to do more damage than a lighter, slower missile. What is important to understand is the relative influence that Mass and Velocity have on Kinetic Energy, as this is key to understanding why I’d rather be shot by an AK than an M4.

You’ll notice that the Mass component of the KE equation is halved, whereas the Velocity component is squared.

For this reason, it is the Velocity of the projectile that has far more bearing on the energy that it dissipates into the target than the mass.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
Bang. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

The V1-V2 component of the equation takes into consideration that the projectile might actually pass straight through the target, rather than coming to rest in the target. In this instance, the change in the Velocity of the projectile as it passes through the target (V1 being its velocity as it enters, and V2 being velocity on exit) is the factor that is considered when calculating how much energy the missile delivered into the target.

Naturally if the projectile comes to rest in the target (ie: no exit wound) then V2 equals zero and the projectile’s velocity as it entered (V1) is used to calculate the KE.

That’s enough physics for now, but you get the concept that the optimum projectile to shoot someone with is one that has a decent mass, is very, very fast, and is guaranteed to come to rest in your target, as to dissipate as much energy as possible into them, and hence do maximal damage.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
M4 Carbine. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The next concept to grasp is that of permanent cavitation versus temporary cavitation. Permanent cavitation is the hole that gets left in a target from a projectile punching through it. You can think of it simply like a sharp stick being pushed through a target and leaving a hole the diameter of the stick. The permanent cavity left by a bullet is proportionate to the surface area of the bullet as it passes through the tissue.

For instance, if an AK47 round of 7.62mm diameter at its widest point passes cleanly through a target, it will leave a round 7.62mm hole (permanent cavity). If this hole goes through a vital structure in the body, then the wound can be fatal. However, if the bullet passes through soft tissues only, then the permanent cavity can be relatively benign.

This is a slight oversimplification of the concept, as bullets will rarely remain dead straight as they pass through human bodies, as they have a tendency to destabilize, and the heavier back-end of the bullet will want to overtake the front.

This concept, known as yaw, increases the frontal surface area of the bullet as it passes through tissue, and hence creates a larger permanent cavity.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Far more damaging than the permanent cavity left by a projectile is the temporary cavity that it creates. Anyone who has ever watched the TV show MythBusters will have some familiarity with this concept, and it is best demonstrated using slow motion video imagery of bullets being shot into special jelly known as ballistic gelatin, which is calibrated to be the same density as human soft tissues.

What can be seen in these video images (below) is the pulsating dissipation of energy that emanates out from a bullet as it passes through the gelatin.

Also read: This is perhaps the fastest shotgun in the world

This is a visual illustration of the concept of temporary cavitation, and it allows the viewer to begin to appreciate the devastating effect that a high velocity missile can have once it enters a human body. The temporary cavitation is the transfer of Kinetic Energy from the projectile into the tissues of the target, and as we learned above, is relative to the mass and, more importantly, the velocity of the projectile.

As the energy of the projectile is dissipated into the tissues of the target the temporary cavitation pulverizes structures adjacent to the bullet’s tract, including blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and any solid organs that may be in close proximity.

For that reason the high velocity projectile does not need to pass directly through a structure in the body to destroy it. The higher the Kinetic Energy of the projectile the further out from the permanent cavity the temporary cavity extends.

Below is a slow motion video of a 5.56x45mm round (same as the M4 fires) hitting ballistic gelatine in slow motion. After watching, the medical provider can begin to appreciate the damage that gets done to tissues by the pressure wave of the temporary cavitation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRbAfdoU9vY

(Brass Fetcher | YouTube)

Another characteristic of the M4 round is the tendency for the bullet to disintegrate if it strikes tissue at a decent velocity. Despite being a jacketed round, owing to it being smaller, lighter, and faster than an AK47 projectile, it tends to yaw faster once it hits tissue and the shearing forces on the bullet once it is traveling at 90 degrees through the tissue often tears the bullet into pieces, thus creating multiple smaller projectiles and increasing the chances of all of the bullet parts remaining in the target, and hence dissipating more energy.

The AK47 round, being slightly heavier and slower than the M4 round will have a tendency to remain intact as it strikes tissue, and whilst it will penetrate deeper, it tends to remain intact and not yaw until it has penetrated much deeper than the M4.

More: This Marine tweaked his body armor to instantly treat a gunshot wound

The video below shows a soft point round being used, which theoretically should be more destructive than its full metal jacket counterpart, the video still illustrates nicely the significant penetration of the AK47 round without it yawing significantly or disintegrating.

I once saw a good case study illustrating this point nicely where a casualty had sustained an AK47 gunshot wound to the right lateral thigh and we recovered the intact bullet from the inside of his left upper abdominal wall. It had passed through approximately 1 metre of his tissues and shredded his small bowel, but the projectile hadn’t fragmented at all, and the temporary cavitation hadn’t done enough damage to be lethal. The casualty required a laparotomy to remove multiple sections of small intestine, but made a good recovery. That one is a story for another time.

(The Ammo Channel | YouTube)

Although an unpleasant injury to have, the fact that the AK47 round was travelling slower than an M4 at the same range would have been, coupled with the fact that the projectile remained intact and didn’t yaw significantly as in passed through him, meant the wound was nowhere near as devastating as the above-mentioned M4 injury in the same area.

It must be noted however that the comparison is far from perfect given that the M4 injury involved the bone, with the one immediately above passing solely through soft tissues.

So there it is, all things being equal, when all is said and done I’d rather be shot with an AK47 than an M4 on any day of the week. Naturally, as medical responders, it is always important to treat the wound and not the rifle that inflicted it, and I have certainly seen some horrendous AK47 wounds over the years and some relatively minor ones from M4s, so it all depends.

The main take home points for medicos are to be aware of the magnitude of damage that can be caused by the temporary cavitation resulting from high velocity missile wounds, and also if you find an entrance wound, there’s no telling where in the body the projectile might have ended up!

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and sailors prepare for chemical emergencies

U.S. Marines, sailors, and civilians participated in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, 2019.

The class is meant to teach students how to both fully understand and effectively respond to emergency situations where dangerous chemicals, substances, and materials are found on military installations.

The week-long class consisted mostly of classroom lectures in addition to an entire day devoted to practical application training exercises where the students worked together to solve applicable, but difficult scenarios.


“I think this class is a big learning curve for a lot of the students here,” says Ashley Hoshihara Cruz, the Camp Foster chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive specialist. “However, the students are really putting in the resources, time, and effort to make this a quality class.”

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

U.S. Marines prepare to enter a mock-contamination site during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

To encourage teamwork and strengthen leadership capabilities in the class, Wood said that the junior Marines in the class may be placed in leadership roles and find themselves guiding officers and staff noncommissioned officers through tasks the senior Marines may primarily fill.

“It’s really rewarding,” Wood said. “To see these students take the information we, as instructors, gave to them and extract that out to things that we have not talked about, but figured out, nonetheless.”

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hale, a native of Washington D.C. and an explosive ordnance and disposal chief for U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, attaches an oxygen tank to a fellow student during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

The HAZWOPER class is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School and has been taught in Okinawa for the past eight years.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

France releases photo of terror suspect, want him dead or alive

French police released a photo of the suspected gunman in Dec. 11, 2018’s terror attack at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, as a 36-hour manhunt continues.

A lone gunman killed two people, left one brain dead, and injured 12 others in the attack, which took place when stallholders were preparing to close down around 8 p.m.

Police on Dec. 12, 2018, identified the suspect as Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old man born in Strasbourg. They released a photo of him on Dec. 12, 2018 in a call for witnesses.


They said that Chekatt is a “dangerous individual, do not engage with him.”

Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for the French government, told the CNews channel that “it doesn’t matter” whether police catch the suspect dead or alive, and that “the best thing would be to find him as quickly as possible.”

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

A wanted poster published online by France’s Police Nationale.

(Police Nationale / Twitter)

The notice was published in French, English, and German. Strasbourg sits on the border between France and Germany, and is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

Laurent Nuñez, the secretary of state for France’s interior ministry, said that authorities cannot rule out the possibility that Chekatt escaped the country.

Officers identified him after the suspected shooter jumped in a taxi after the attack and bragged to the driver about it, authorities said.

Police said Chekatt was armed with a handgun and a knife when he opened fire on the Christmas market in Strasbourg.

He allegedly yelled “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — and exchanged gunfire with security forces.

Chekatt is known to have developed radical religious views while in jail, authorities said.

Police detained four people connected to Chekatt overnight in Strasbourg. Sources close to investigation told Reuters they were his mother, father, and two brothers.

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

Articles

Video: JR Martinez and Noah Galloway talk ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
(Photo: ABC)


Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury. This WATM exclusive — a must-watch for DWTS fans — brings out a side of Galloway that only a fellow vet like Martinez can.

Watch it below:

Now: Bryan Anderson’s Amazing Story Showcased in ‘American Sniper’

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 8th

Just when you thought things were getting nice and boring, a 1st Lt goes and steals an APC and drives it through Richmond. You know, deep down, the mechanic responsible for that vehicle is secretly proud that their M577 managed to keep up in a police pursuit.

The APC started up, managed to get off base and drive 60 miles to Richmond with the cops on his ass within 2 hours — all without breaking down. Sure, that lieutenant is going to be turning big rocks into smaller rocks for a while but, holy crap, someone give that motor sergeant a medal!


Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

“I went where you told me. I took a left on Victory Road and still didn’t see it.”

(It’s funny because every installation has at least two “Victory Road”s.)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

I swear that this is the last ACP Joyrider meme… this week…

(Meme via Artillery Moments)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via OAF Nation)

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Intel

Russia is trolling US troops with fake Facebook profiles of gorgeous women

When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”


It appears he has not forgotten that goal.

Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.

These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)

Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.

One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.

Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.

For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.

According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”

While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.

“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”

Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.

According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”

In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.

Articles

A Marine is getting closer to becoming the first female infantry officer

A female officer has neared the halfway mark of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course – further than previous women have progressed.


According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, the unidentified officer has roughly eight weeks left. Two female Marine officers have graduated the Army artillery course, and one had graduated the Army’s armor course. As many as 248 women are in ground combat units that were once restricted to men only as of July 19, 2017.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
A student with Infantry Officer Course speaks to role-players at Range 220, the Combat Center’s largest military operations on urbanized terrain facility, Sept. 22, 2016, as part of Exercise Talon Reach. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Eric Clayton/Released)

“These are successes that never seem to get out in the press,” Gen. Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said during a media roundtable.

The event also touched on what the Marine Corps Times report described as measures to “eliminate attitudes” that lead to the investigation of a Facebook group known as Marines United.

The last woman to attend the course was dropped after 12 days for failing to complete two conditioning hikes. The Washington Post reported 29 women had tried and failed to complete the very difficult course.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
2nd Lt. Anthony Pandolfi, student, Infantry Officers Course 2-15, posts security after entering Range 220 during exercise Talon Reach V aboard the Combat Center, March 25, 2015. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

The opening of direct ground combat roles to women was announced in 2012, but the effort turned controversial in 2015 when then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that 69 percent of the tasks were performed more efficiently by all-male units.

That lead to a dust-up with Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, who received the Navy Cross for heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

No women have yet entered Marine Special Operations Command’s combat elements, but some are in support units. The first woman to try to complete SEAL training as an officer dropped out after a week, according to a report by DailyWire.com, which noted another female sailor is training to be a Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

8 tips for managing a remote team during COVID-19

These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.


This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.

I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:

Stay connected.

MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

Schedule video conference calls.

Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.

Create a virtual water cooler.

Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

Share calendars.

Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.

c.pxhere.com

Take breaks.

Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

Dedicate a space.

This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.

Don’t neglect hygiene.

Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.

Be patient.

This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.

Shannon Razsadin is the executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, www.militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US diplomats in China suffer strange sudden brain injuries

No one knows exactly what caused 24 US diplomats and their families in Cuba to fall ill and in many cases show signs of brain injuries after they reported hearing strange noises.

But whatever is causing these mysterious illnesses, it seems to now be happening in China too.

On May 23, 2018, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.


The New York Times reported June 6, 2018, that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment.

After the evacuation of the first diplomatic employee from Guangzhou was announced, the State Department issued a health alert via the US Consulate in Guangzhou telling people that “if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

On June 5, 2018, the office of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of a task force meant to respond to these mysterious incidents, which some have called “sonic attacks.”

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“U.S. government personnel and family members at affected locations have been directed to alert their mission’s medical unit if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations,” the State Department announcement said. “Reported symptoms have included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”

A mysterious problem that began in Cuba

The saga began in late 2016, when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some individuals could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.

Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.

A study of those victims suggested a disconcerting possibility: some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.

“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury,” the study’s authors wrote.

Many of the victims remembered strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported hearing a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.

The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them
The U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The recent State Department announcement said there have been at least 24 victims of these attacks. Of those, 21 were studied by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere.

After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.

The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.

The symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.

“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.

An unknown cause

Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about what happened to these diplomats.

If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government denied any connection and investigators hadn’t found a link to Russia, which intelligence analysts have speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out such an attack.

Now that there are cases in China, the mystery is even deeper.

The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But although sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make a sonic weapon unlikely.

“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” Horowitz said.

He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the study on the victims from Cuba reported found no signs of infection (like fever). They determined that it was unlikely a chemical agent caused these effects, since it would have damaged other organs, too.

In an editorial published alongside that study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, they couldn’t definitively figure out what went wrong.

“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”

Now, employees headed to China may have to consider similar testing.

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

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