China protested Friday the Trump administration’s $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan as a violation of its sovereignty and demanded that the deal be cancelled.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang said the sale ran counter to China’s vital security interests and would be a gross violation of the stated commitment by the U.S. to a “one China” policy.
“We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Lu said at a regular daily briefing. “We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.”
Lu’s remarks were aimed at the $1.42 billion sale of arms to Taiwan announced Thursday by the U.S. State Department.
The package reportedly included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 (Standard Missile-2) missiles, one of the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-air weapons. The sales also included AGM-154 Joint Standoff air-to-surface missiles.
In announcing the deal, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the sale did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island off China’s coast formerly known as Formosa.
“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said, adding that “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.'”
The last U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, approved during the Obama administration in December 2015, was worth $1.8 billion and included two de-commissioned U.S. Navy frigates, minesweepers, Stinger missiles, and anti-armor and anti-tank missiles.
The State Department and the Pentagon had approved another $1 billion arms sale in December of 2016 similar to the one signed Thursday, but President Barack Obama held off on final approval to allow the incoming Trump administration make the decision.
China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island. China has a policy of eventual reunification, and has not ruled out force to achieve it.
The arms sale announcement came at an awkward time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of British rule.
Taiwan was also rattled by the presence in nearby waters of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, the only carrier in China’s growing fleet.
China announced Monday that the Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and a frigate, had left its homeport in Qingdao to join the Hong Kong events on a course that would take it through the Taiwan Straits.
U.S. relations with China — and the severing of formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan — were the outgrowth of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China” in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established formal relations with China.
Also in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act guaranteeing U.S. support for Taiwan and aid in its self-defense. The unofficial U.S. presence in Taiwan is maintained via the American Institute in Taiwan, a private corporation which carries out informal diplomatic activities.
TetraSki, a new technology was integrated into the 33rd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held in Snowmass Colorado from March 31 to April 5, 2019. The technology was integrated in the clinic for the second year in a row to help promote independence in skiing and life. The Tetradapt Initiative began over 10 years ago when founder and visionary, Jeffrey Rosenbluth, MD, of Tetradapt Community dreamed of helping people living with paralysis.
As a result of this initiative, people who are completely paralyzed can now enjoy downhill skiing and sailing in a new way. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic has grown to assist nearly 400 profoundly disabled veterans. The Clinic has provided Tetradapt Community with a platform to showcase their technology, bringing hope to veterans with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.
“We are honored to work with the VA. Many people are not involved in adaptive sports as they feel that they can’t get involved. The technology was not available in the past.” said Rosenthal.
“We want to help people with real complex physical disabilities enjoy normal activities.”
Tetra-ski: Advanced Technology at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic
Dr. Rosenthal is currently the Medical Director of the Spinal Cory Injury Acute Rehabilitation program at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City, Utah and at South Davis Community Hospital, Bountiful, Utah, where he oversees Sub-acute and long term acute Spinal Cord Injury programs. He became interested in rehabilitation medicine and technology at the very beginning of his career. After graduating from New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York and completing his residency at University California (UC) Davis, Davis, California with a focus on rehabilitation medicine, Dr. Rosenthal landed his first job at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
His dreams of impacting the lives of those living with paralysis were coming true. He joined the University of Utah’s adaptive sports rehabilitation program and began developing the university’s very own TetraSki equipment.
“I fell in love with rehabilitation technology and what adaptive ski was doing for people. I was given the opportunity to work with veterans after completing my residency at UC Davis. I wanted to continue my work with veterans. Rehabilitation technology amazed me,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “That was the beginning.”
Hitting the slopes
A unique technology and the only one like it in the world, the TetraSki provides independent turning and speed variability through the use of a joystick and/or breath control, using a sip-and-puff technique. The sip-and-puff switch does not require hand availability and activates by simply sipping and puffing breaths of air in and out, causing the chair to be directed in whichever direction it is instructed. The TetraSki is ideal for individuals with the most complex physical abilities.
Vietnam War Veteran Robert Johnson from Hines, Illinois, on TetraSki at Winter Sports Clinic 2019.
For the first time in adaptive sports, skiers can use the joystick and sip-and-puff functionality simultaneously. The feature allows users to enjoy downhill skiing in their own ski chair. A tether-to the instructor is used as an emergency brake but is not used for turning directions.
U.S Army and Vietnam Veteran Robert Johnson of Hines, Illinois experienced the TetraSki first hand at the Winter Sports Clinic, last year in 2018. Mr. Morris is a patient at the David Hines Jr. Veteran Affairs (VA) Hospital, Hines, Illinois and became involved with the hospital’s adaptive sports program 5 years ago. He is an appropriate candidate for Tetra-Ski and considered to be “more involved,” meaning, having more extreme impairment. When asked what he enjoyed most about Tetra-Ski he said,
“The TetraSki is amazing. I like to lean in and out when I ski. Individuals who don’t have as much coordination ability as I do would really love it! The sip-and-puff is very useful for those who are high level quadriplegics. The technology is perfect.”
After three years of development by the University of Utah Rehabilitation Research and Development team, three TetraSkis will be provided to nine national adaptive ski program partners for shared use during the 2018/2019 ski season, and VA is among the lucky group. Tetradapt Community works in coordination with the University of Utah’s best engineering, research, business and medical experts to design manufacture to deliver the state-of-the-art TetraSki equipment.
Money is not the goal
Tetradapt Community is nonprofit and does not plan to sell the TetraSki in the market place. The goal is to expose the technology to the public for fundraising purposes. The technology is leased to VA Adaptive Sports programs and other adaptive sports programs. The company has received funding from VA Adaptive Sports and other private organizations, receiving roughly between ,000.00- 120,000.00 dollars each year in funding.
“We had a good idea and wanted to see it carried out in the market, not for profit but for people to see its commercial potential,” said Dr. Rosenthal.
The National Disabled Sports Clinics empower those with perceived limitations by participating in adaptive sports that improve their overall health and outlook. The clinic is made possible through a longstanding partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tetradapt Community hopes to continue to its involvement with the winter sports clinics and the VA is excited to create more awareness of the Tetradapt initiative, giving hope back to individuals with physical impairments. The therapy and joy that this technology provides to veterans is immeasurable. When asked what impact he feels the TetraSki will have on our veterans and the future Dr. Rosenthal commented,
“The technology requires a huge cultural and mind shift. “It’s a shockingly independent experience,”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Any time someone sets out to make a war film, he or she risks getting swept up into the action, the combat, the inherent drama that comes with the subject. The truly great war movies recognize the smaller elements, the ironies and subtleties of life during conflicts. Day One, a short film from U.S. Army veteran turned filmmaker Henry Hughes, is such a movie.
“We’re not having a lot of success in getting telling the soldier experience story,” says Hughes, an American Film Institute alum. “I don’t think we’ve changed much how we look at war and the stories that come out of it. Troops are portrayed as either victims or heroes. We still think war is ironic, that we go in and we’re surprised by the things that we find in war. Maybe there’s some bad things about it, and we’re like ‘oh that’s a surprise!’ But it’s not a surprise. War is a very mixed bag, but it can be spiritual and it can be fun and it can be dangerous and it can be morally wrong at times and it can also be one of the things you’re most proud of because you do some really good things.”
Day One is based on Hughes’ own experience with his translator while he was an infantry officer in 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The movie follows a new female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist in Afghanistan. Her job brings up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.
“Having a female interpreter definitely changed my perspective of fighting, particularly having been on two deployments,” Hughes says. “The first time, it feels very new and romantic and exciting. The second time, you aren’t seeing a lot of impact in the way you would like and so you start wondering if you’re doing the right thing. In this instance, I had this Afghan-American woman with me at all times, and she was the person I communicated with locals to and she had access to the Afghan women in a way that I have never had before.”
“In my first deployment we didn’t even look at the women,” Hughes continues. “I remember that was a thing we did as a company. When we were on a trail and a woman came by, we would clear the trail, turn out, and allow them to walk by. Now all of a sudden, I mean I’m not face to face with these women but my interpreter would tell me she just spoke with a woman that would give us a very different perspective from what we would usually get. It’s interesting in that way.”
Hughes’ Army perspective spans more than just his time as an Army officer. He was also a military brat, following his dad with the rest of the family, living in Germany and Texas. As an officer in the 173d, he went to Airborne and Ranger School, Armor School, and Scout Leaders Course to prepare for his time in Afghanistan during 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2010.
“I’m very interested in exploring the military stuff because it is such a hyperbolic life.” He says. “Things are just so condensed and so strange and powerful. It’s like the meaning of life is life hangs in balance sometimes. You get that moment in the military and most people don’t ever work in those types of absolutes.”
Hughes has always been the artistic type. He went to a high school that had a TV studio, which inspired the creative side of his personality. He’s also come to believe that the military is the perfect place to start a filmmaking career.
“You take so many lessons from your military experience and apply them into filmmaking because it is so team-oriented and team-based. The ability to communicate and draft up a single clear mission or objective. Those skills that I learned as a young officer are paying massive dividends now, being creative.”
Hughes also believes a good storyteller must step out of his or her comfort zone to empathize with the characters and relate them to the audience.
“With trying to express yourself artistically, you have to be a little bit more vulnerable. ‘What is actually at play here,’ as opposed to ‘How do I accomplish this?’ I think you have to be a little bit more introspective whereas in the military, we’re very external and action-driven. It’s just analysis but we all do tons of analysis in the military too. I think it’s a good thing.”
The Air Force has just escalated its response to efforts by the airlines to hire away military pilots. They’re throwing huge retention bonuses to the pilots and boosting flight pay to $1,000 a month.
According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the flight pay boost will add an additional $1,800 a month to the paychecks of officers. Enlisted men will see their flight pay go from $400 to $600 a month, a 50 percent increase, and taking their pay up $2,400 a year.
“We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we’re working to do that,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in an Air Force release. “We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers.”
In addition to announcing the increased flight pay, Secretary Wilson announced the creation of an “Aircrew Crisis Task Force” under Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski. This task force’s formation is a sign that the pilot shortage the Air Force is facing has not improved. The Air Force release noted that at the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the Air Force was short 1,555 pilots overall, including 1,211 fighter pilots.
The Air Force is looking to bring back 25 retired pilots to fill staff positions through the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty program, allowing pilots who are still current to be returned to front-line duties. The staff positions are non-flying, but retired pilots could have sufficient expertise to handle them.
This past June, the Air Force increased its Aviation Bonus cap from $25,000 a year to $35,000. These bonuses are paid to pilots who commit to stay past their service commitment for up to nine years.
The Air Force was also seeking to reduce the number of non-flying assignments for pilots, including headquarters positions and developmental opportunities. The Air Force is also trying to reduce additional units and add more flexibility for Airmen with families and children.
Alaska is still considered the last frontier, even in today’s modern times. The unforgiving and extreme weather coupled with the rough terrain makes it a challenging place to live. More than one hundred years ago – during the Spanish Flu – it was even more deadly.
The world is very familiar with the new words in our daily vocabulary: quarantine, face mask and social distancing, thanks to COVID-19 and the current global pandemic. Just 100 years ago this was the case as well, during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu. The big difference between then and now are the extreme advancements in technology and medical care. According to the CDC, 500 million people were positive and 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu.
In a wild place like Alaska with scarce medical care, it was a sure death sentence.
When the Spanish Flu arrived in Alaska during the spring of 1919, it wiped out villages – and fast. World War I had just ended and on May 26, 1919, the USS Unalga was patrolling around the Aleutian Islands, near Akun Island located in Seredka Bay. The crew and ship were still technically considered part of the Navy, with the war only ending shortly before that. Their role in that moment was law enforcement, inspection, mail transport and rescues. They were also a floating court and were able to give medical care to those in need.
After a full day of training, the crew was resting when they received a distress call from a newer settlement on Unalaska Island. They reported a severe outbreak of the Spanish Flu. The Coast Guard didn’t hesitate; they planned to get underway at dawn. Although they would receive another distress call from a settlement in Bristol Bay, the captain made the decision to head to Unalaska Island first.
When the crew made their way off the ship, they were shocked. It was if the entirety of the settlement had been infected with the Spanish Flu, the doctor included. They also discovered that all but one operator of the small U.S. Navy radio station had it as well. The coastie crew of the USS Unalga was their last hope of survival.
With that, the 80 coasties dove in. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class E.S. Chase, Lieutenant Junior Grade Dr. F.H. Johnson and Lieutenant E.W. Scott (a dentist), were the only men on board with advanced medical training. Despite that, they were all in. For over a week they were the only resource of support for Unalaska with nothing but cloth masks to protect themselves.
The captain made the decision to utilize the food on board to feed the entire town. At one point, they were providing up to 1,000 meals a day. The coasties even built a temporary hospital with pumping and electricity that was powered through the ship’s own power plant.
Without the proper protective equipment that today we know is critical, many of the crew fell ill themselves, including the captain. Despite this, they charged on and continued working. Although the 80 coasties fought to save everyone, they did bury 45 villagers who succumbed to the Spanish Flu.
The crew was not only caring for the ill, but for the children of those who died because the orphanage became full. Without their willingness to step forward, the children were at risk of dying from starvation, the elements and even documented feral dogs that were roaming the island. Some of the crew even made clothing for the children.
On June 3, 1919, the Coast Guard Cutter arrived to support their efforts. With both crews nursing and caring for the sick, recovery began. Due to the dedication of these coasties, the mortality rate of the village was only 12 percent. The majority of Alaska was at 90 percent mortality. At the end of the Spanish flu, around 3,000 Alaskans lost their lives, most of them natives.
Thanks to these coasties, this village was spared that fate.
Over the past year, a selected set of Army units have been piloting the new six-test Army Combat Fitness Test as the first phase of replacing the three-test Army Physical Fitness Test.
Used since 1980, the APFT includes the 2-mile run, push-up test, and sit-up test. The ACFT is an almost hour-long series of the six tests described in Table 1: the dead lift, the standing power throw, the hand-release push up, the sprint-drag-and-carry, the leg tuck hold, and the 2-mile run.
The ACFT is designed to better assess soldiers’ abilities to perform common tasks that reflect combat readiness. “It’s much more rigorous, but a better test,” agreed several members of the units testing the ACFT. Some studies are still underway, but transition to the ACFT is imminent:
The ACFT will be conducted by all soldiers Army-wide starting Oct. 1, 2019. Soldiers will also conduct the APFT as the official test of record during a one-year transition until Oct. 1, 2020. While some aspects of standards, training, and administration are being finalized, procedures and techniques are documented in Field Manual (FM) 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT), 2012.
Capt. Jerritt Larson, executive officer, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait performs the “maximum deadlift” element of the new US Army Combat Fitness Test.
(Photo by Kevin Fleming, 401st AFSB Public Affairs)
The ACFT and associated training requires soldiers to use several parts of the body not previously addressed by the APFT. This supports a more holistic, balanced approach to Army physical readiness. While ACFT is intended to improve soldiers’ physical performance while reducing injuries long term, as with any new physical activity it comes with new injury risks.
Observations by Army experts suggest certain injuries that may be anticipated. While the Army is sending out ACFT trainers to every unit to help train soldiers, everyone should be aware of potential new problems and how to avoid them.
Why and how were new ACFT tests selected?
Leaders and soldiers alike have long expressed concerns that the APFT doesn’t adequately measure soldiers’ abilities to perform common required tasks important during deployment.
Not all aspects of the APFT are bad, however. Studies have demonstrated that the 2-mile run is an excellent way to test soldiers’ cardiorespiratory endurance, also known as aerobic fitness. Aerobic capacity is linked to performance of more military tasks than any other aspect of fitness.
“Aerobic capacity is the most important measure of a soldier’s fitness,” says Dr. Bruce Jones, a retired Army colonel and medical doctor with the U.S. Army Public Health Center. “And weight-bearing physical activities such as running or marching are inescapable routine military aerobic activities.” Jones also explains that “Poor run times are not only associated with poor performance, they are associated with higher risk of injury.” So the 2-mile run time is a reliable way to monitor both aerobic fitness and injury risk.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
The push-up test is also linked to key military tasks, and is a good measure of upper body muscle endurance. However, evidence did not support the value of using the sit-up test to measure military task performance.
An in-depth review of key fitness elements and their association with military tasks found that muscle strength and power are critical to military task performance. Agility and speed are also very important. The APFT does not measure these key fitness elements. The ACFT will now ensure soldiers’ combat readiness determinations include these additional fitness components.
What injury risks are associated with the ACFT?
Historically, the majority of soldiers’ injuries have occurred in the lower body, which includes the knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot and the lower back. Excessive physical training emphasis on distance running and long foot marches have been to blame.
“While lower body injuries may be reduced with more cross-training, they are expected to remain a primary concern,” explained Tyson Grier, an APHC kinesiologist. “Soldiers spend the majority of their time on their feet. Their lower body is constantly absorbing forces from carrying their body weight in addition to other loads.”
The Army updated its training doctrine to the physical readiness training program in 2012 to reduce lower body injuries. The PRT deemphasizes distance running and encourages a mix of training activities to promote strength, agility, balance, and power.
The PRT has been associated with a reduction of injuries in initial entry training. Army operational units have not shown comparable trends in injury reduction, however. Since the APFT has continued to be the test of record these units may not have fully embraced the PRT.
With the implementation of the ACFT, the Army will still monitor soldiers’ aerobic fitness with the 2-mile run, but training time will need to be devoted to a variety of other activities too. The new tests are not risk-free, but the goal is to slowly build up the body’s ability to perform activities than might cause soldiers injuries on the job. While this is to enhance physical performance, Army experts recognize that the training for and conduct of the ACFT could also increase risk of injuries to the upper body such as the back and spine, shoulder, and elbows.
Sgt. Traighe Rouse, 1-87IN, 1BCT10MTN, carries two 40 pound kettle bells during the A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry event of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
(U.S. Army photo by SSG James Avery)
Some items used for the ACFT, such as the trap/hex bar for the deadlift, have been specifically selected to reduce injury risk. To avoid injuries caused by excessive weight lifts, the maximum weight for the deadlift was limited to 340 pounds, considered a moderate weight by serious lifter. Procedures are designed to avoid injury. For example, the grader must spot the soldier during leg tuck to reduce falling injury. A required warm up before the ACFT and a specific deadlift warm up period will reduce injuries. Despite these efforts, there will be a learning curve.
“A primary reason for injury resulting from the new test and training activities will be due to improper form and technique,” says Grier. “These are new activities to learn. It is very important that soldiers learn proper technique from the start, and avoid developing bad habits.”
“We also worry that “too much too soon” will cause injuries,” notes Maj. Timothy Benedict., Army physical therapist. “Some soldiers will start this training by lifting too much weight, conducting too many repetitions, or not allowing days of rest between sessions that stress specific muscles.”
While only future surveillance of soldiers’ injuries will be able to identify actual changes to the Army’s injury trends, a review of existing evidence suggests potential injury risks associated with the new tests and associated training. Table 1 highlights key injury concerns.
Some injuries associated with the ACFT will be sudden acute injuries. Acute injuries are usually associated with sudden sharp pain and typically require immediate medical attention. These include strains or tears in arm, shoulder, chest, or back muscles, torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, herniated discs in the back, pinched nerves, or fractured bones (such as from falling during the leg tuck).
While these acute injuries can occur when soldiers are conducting military tasks or other personal activities, specific training activities may raise the risk. For example, studies of both professional and amateur and weightlifters and power lifters have indicated that use of extremely heavy weights during the dead-left is associated with lower back disc herniation and knee injuries. On the other hand, some rehabilitation studies have suggested that using lighter weights during the dead-lift may be useful to strengthen the back and knees.
An acute tear of fatigued muscles and tendons in the chest, arm, or shoulder during bench-pressing of heavy weights, such as a pectoralis major rupture, is another highly studied injury. This injury is almost uniquely associated with the bench press activity — only a couple past military cases were other causes (parachuting and push-up training). Though the bench press is not part of the ACFT, there is concern that soldiers may use this activity to train for the ACFT.
Pfc. Tony Garcia, an infantryman with 2nd platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pumps out pushups during a ranger physical fitness test.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Ford)
Injuries that develop gradually over time from over training are known as cumulative or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur when a repeatedly used set of body tissues haven’t had adequate time to heal and rebuild. “Continuing to stress tissues already injured from improper or excessive use or weight will only make the condition worse,” warns Benedict.
While delayed muscle soreness can be a normal sign that muscles are rebuilding stronger, pain in a joint or bone is not normal. Pain associated with overuse injuries may dull during the activity, but can become more serious if use continues.
Overuse injuries to the lower body are the most common type of soldier injury. Overuse to joints in shoulders, elbows, as well as knees and spinal joints are concerns because of the new ACFT tests. A common shoulder overuse injury is a torn rotator cuff – though it can occur suddenly, tissues have often already been worn from excessive use. Other common overuse injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, and pain syndromes in the knee and the lower back. These injuries may lead to long term chronic or permanent tissue damage.
Why it matters
Though injuries will continue to be experienced by soldiers — most are preventable.
Injury can mean out of commission for some time — and can notably increase your chances of getting injured again. Or develop chronic life-long conditions as you get older.
Injuries critically impact individual, units, and Army performance. Injuries cost the Army billions of dollars annually for medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-training, medical disability, and reduced productivity from restricted duties, and attrition. Training-related musculoskeletal injuries are the leading reason for temporary medical non-deployment status.
What you can do
In order to optimize U.S. military performance, soldiers and Leaders must do their part to train smarter which includes avoiding injury.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So do what you can to avoid getting injured in the first place. Table 2 provides some general guidance. Using proper technique, slowly building up intensity and weight levels to acclimate your body, and allowing rest days between similar activities are the primary keys to minimizing your risk.
To minimize risk follow procedures as taught by Army ACFT trainers. Seek guidance from Army Fitness Centers, doctrine in FM 7-22, a certified trainer, such as a Master Fitness Trainer, and use a buddy system during training to be warned of poor form and for hands on help as a ‘spotter’ to ensure proper balance and range of motion.
And if you are injured? Stop activities at early signs of pain and seek medical advice. Taking a break from activities temporarily to let the tissues heal can minimize the likelihood of a more serious injury. An injured knee can require weeks or months of rehabilitation. A worn rotator cuff tear can mean surgery. Lower back pain can result in a long term health condition.
In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.
In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.
In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.
One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.
A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.
So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?
International law and American concerns
International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.
Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.
In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.
But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.
In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.
The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.
Global trade and American national security
The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.
America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”
What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.
Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”
You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.
But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.
Freedom of navigation and American doctrine
A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.
In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”
Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”
Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.
Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.
Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.
So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.
But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.
And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.
(US Department of Defense)
The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.
So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.
They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.
America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.
So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?
The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.
Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.
Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.
“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”
Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.
Maintaining the pace
Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.
“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.
His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.
On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.
“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”
Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.
“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”
Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.
“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”
Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.
Never giving up
“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’
“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.
“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”
And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
ISIS is currently facing one of its greatest military challenges since the group proclaimed a caliphate following the seizure of Mosul and much of western Iraq and eastern Syria last summer.
According to an intelligence brief from The Soufan Group, ISIS is experiencing losses around its “capital” of Raqqa, representing both an operational and symbolic setback for the group.
Although ISIS has continued to expand and hold onto territory in Iraq, the militants have come under increasing pressure in Syria.
ISIS has lost territory in a number of key battles. Most notably, Kurdish YPG forces have dealt ISIS defeats at the towns of Tal Abyad and Ayn Issa.
ISIS once hoped to cut off major Syrian Kurdish regions from one another by holding these towns near the Turkish border. Now, the Kurds have foreclosed on that strategy, beating back the jihadists’ momentum and even moving into some of ISIS’s most important territory.
“With the most recent YPG moves against the town of Ayn Issa, the Islamic State is facing perhaps its most serious symbolic and meaningful threat since it declared itself a caliphate almost one year ago,” The Soufan Group notes. “Its capital, Raqqa, the center of the group’s authority and image, is under threat.”
By seizing and securing Ayn Issa, the YPG, in conjunction with US-led coalition airstrikes, have embedded themselves only 31 miles away from ISIS’ de facto capital. The YPG also seized the Syrian military base Liwa-93 from ISIS in the surrounding region. The rapid advance of the Kurdish forces, which ISIS nearly overwhelmed during a crucial battle in the border city of Kobane last summer, has dealt a blow to the militant group, which promoted itself through a doctrine of “remaining and expanding” on multiple simultaneous battlefronts.
Following the YPG’s gains, ISIS forces began digging trenches around Raqqa in an attempt to fortify their capital, Reuters reports. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani also addressed the losses in a Ramadan audio broadcast stating that “God never gave the mujahideen a promise of victory every time.”
Although the Kurds do not have immediate plans to attack ISIS in Raqqa, the seizure of territory around the city could deal a significant blow to the militant organization. Tal Abyad, located by the Turkish border, functioned as a key smuggling point through which fighters and supplies could reach the jihadists.
With its opponents taking control of the territory north of Raqqa, ISIS could experience significant logistical disruptions — and face the crisis of enemy forces advancing closer to the heart of the group’s power.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Edgar Vasquez, a spokesperson for the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, said that “should anti-ISIL forces continue to hold the city, there is the potential for a significant disruption of ISIL’s flow of foreign fighters, illicit goods, and other illegal activity from Turkey into northern Syria and Iraq.”
United States Seventh Fleet has new damning controversy worse than everything else the “Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club” has had to deal with this year. This time it isn’t about a Petty Officer 3rd Class hiding in an engine room, disastrously low morale among lower enlisted, or another collision.
At the time of writing this, 440 active-duty and retired sailors, to include 60 Admirals, are being investigated for ethics violations in connection to Leonard Glenn Francis and Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Formal criminal charges have been field against 34 personnel, 19 of whom have already stood in Federal court. All of them pleaded guilty.
The Singaporean contractor, known as “Fat Leonard,” was arrested in September 2013 for bribery and defrauding the U.S. government through falsified service charges. He is serving 25 years and forfeited $35 million from his personal assets. $35 million is the amount of money he admits to swindling out of the Navy.
Francis managed to con the Navy for over ten years by bribing Navy officials to look the other way and worming his way into meetings with Admirals to gain insider knowledge. His bribes included alcohol-fueled parties, private vacations, pure cash, and many other luxuries. The bribery with the worst optics still remains the six figures worth of prostitutes he would bring to those officials.
Capt. Daniel Dusek, the former commander of the USS Bonhomme Richard, received a 46-month prison sentence and ordered to pay $100k in fines and restitution for connections to the scandal. Dusek admits to “succumbing to temptations before him” and gave classified information to “Fat Leonard.”
Francis received a decommissioned British naval vessel, RFA Sir Lancelot, and converted it into a party boat, rechristened as the Glenn Braveheart, to entertain top U.S. Navy officials in 2003. Once there, he would entice the Naval officers with the bribes and prostitutes to gain unfettered access into the inner workings of the Navy, use the intimate knowledge and access to secure valuable contracts, and then overcharge the Navy for his fraudulent invoices.
The true scope of “Fat Leonard’s” corruption is still not known and the number of involved Naval officials isn’t known at this time as investigations continue.
The vast, global networks of the Defense Department are under constant attack, with the sophistication of the cyber assaults increasing, the director of Defense Information Systems Agency said Jan. 11.
Army Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, who is also the commander of the Joint Force Headquarters, Department of Defense Information Networks, described some of the surprises of being in his post, which he has held since 2015.
Lynn spoke at a luncheon of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Washington Chapter. He said,
We do an excellent job of defending the [Department of Defense Information Networks], but the level of attacks that we’ve seen actually was really truly surprising and it still continues to surprise me just how robust the attacks have become.
‘Terabyte of Death’ Attack: A Matter of When, Not If
A few years ago, getting a 1-gigabyte or 2-gigabyte attack at the internet access point was a big deal, he said. “Now, we get 600-gig attacks on the internet access points and unique, different ways of attacking that we hadn’t thought of before,” he added.
The Defense Department is fortified against even larger attacks, he said.
“There’s now, we would call it the ‘terabyte of death’ — there is a terabyte of death that is looming outside the door,” he said. “We’re prepared for it, so we know it’s coming.”
He noted, “It’s just a matter of time before it hits us.”
Scale of DoD Networks ‘Massive’
Lynn, who retires next month, said the size of the DoD network is something else that surprised him. He described it as a “massive,” 3.2 million-person network that he has to defend or help support in some way.
“There’s something happening every second of every minute globally that you can’t take your eye off of,” he said.
The department needs agile systems for the warfighter to stay ahead of an adversary that is evolving and moving, he pointed out.
There are challenges to finding solutions that scale to the DoD Information Networks, he said. A commercial solution that works for a smaller operation might not translate into something that is effective for the worldwide DoD networks, he explained.
DISA, he pointed out, is a combat support agency responsible for a multitude of networks. He cited as examples the networks between the drones and the drone pilots, or the F-35 “flying mega-computer” that needs a lot of data and intelligence, or the “big pipes” that connect various entities to missile defense.
He explained how commercial mobile platforms have been modified for warfighters to accommodate secret or top secret communications.
“Anywhere they are, globally, if they’ve got to make a serious decision right now and it means seconds, that’s there and available to them,” he said, adding that mobile platforms are becoming “more and more capable as we go.”
Warfighting, which now includes streaming drone video feeds, is happening on mobile devices, he said. “It’s pretty cool to watch,” he remarked.
While acknowledging DISA does do “a lot of cool IT stuff,” Lynn said all of the efforts support a singular focus. “At the end of the day, it’s about lethality,” he said.
On Memorial Day, U.S. citizens from coast to coast will pay tribute to the nation’s fallen military members who died in service to their country. Many will participate in parades, visit cemeteries to place flowers on grave sites, and attend memorial services in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
Memorial Day weekend is also widely considered the unofficial start of the summer season. Many will take advantage of the long weekend to relax from a hectic work schedule and spend some time with their families. Americans will be heading to the beach, firing up the grill, and kicking back with a cold one. American capitalism will be in full force as businesses advertise sales and consumers hit retail stores looking for a great deal. Memorial Day sales have been part of American society for decades.
In recent years, however, there’s been an increase in shaming those who partake in any leisure activities at a time designated to honor America’s fallen heroes. Memes with imagery of grieving widows and children fill social media sites attempting to make people feel guilty people about enjoying themselves.
While the purpose of the meme may be to aid the public’s understanding of the true meaning of the holiday, it also tends to rub people the wrong way.
Veterans have the ability to change the conversation – and their voices need to be heard. Veterans have the perspective to understand the sacrifice of military service and may have a personal connection understanding the loss of a comrade during his or her time in uniform.
The civilian-military divide is well documented. Most Americans don’t have a personal connection with someone in the military, let alone someone who has died in a war. The efforts of veterans shouldn’t increase this divide.
The American people work hard. In fact, many reports show Americans work more hours than any other nation in the industrialized world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some time off. Disgracing our fellow citizens by posting these memes regardless of the intent only serves as a cheap shot and doesn’t do any good to remember the fallen.
This Memorial Day weekend, veterans should honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms by celebrating them and sharing their stories, both online and off, with others who may not have an affiliation with the military or don’t understand the meaning of the holiday. Whether you’re a veteran, active member, or military family member, this weekend should be about educating, not shaming our fellow citizens.
Those who died in service to the nation did so in the course of protecting our country’s way of life for generations to come. And, yes, that way of life includes poolside BBQs on the last Monday in May. Our fallen heroes wouldn’t have it any other way.
US Navy pilots reported seeing UFOs (unidentified flying objects) traveling at hypersonic speed and performing impossible mid-air maneuvers off the east coast of the United States, The New York Times reported May 26, 2019.
Several pilots told the outlet that they saw the UFOs several times between 2014 and 2015, and reported the sightings to superiors.
UFO is a technical classification for anything in the air which is unexplained. The pilots did not claim the objects were extraterrestrial in origin. Many UFOs turn out to have logical explanations.
According to the Times:
“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.”
The technical definition for “hypersonic speed” is any speed more than around 3,800 miles per hour, five times the speed of sound.
Pentagon confirms existence of m UFO program, releases incident videos
The pilots claimed the objects were able to accelerate then make sudden stops and instantaneous turns — maneuvers beyond the capacity of current aerospace technology.
“These things would be out there all day,” Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet Navy pilot, who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress, told the Times.
“Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”
No-one at the Defense Department interviewed by the Times is saying the objects are extraterrestrial in origin.
But the Pentagon is reportedly intrigued by the sightings of the objects, and recently updated its classified guidance for reporting sightings of UFOs.
Graves and four other pilots told the Times that they had seen the UFOs repeatedly between 2014 and 2015 while engaging in training maneuvers off the coasts of Virginia and Florida from the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
“There were a number of different reports,” A Navy spokesman told the Times, remarking that in some cases “we don’t know who’s doing this, we don’t have enough data to track this. So the intent of the message to the fleet is to provide updated guidance on reporting procedures for suspected intrusions into our airspace.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.