When a country’s founder dies, they become a lasting national symbol. But rarely has a founder’s actual corpse been the symbol.
That’s because it’s hard to keep a dead body looking good year after year, decade after decade. Just ask the Russians.
Immediately following communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s passing in 1924, scientists and technicians injected the corpse with embalming fluid and squeezed it into a rubber suit containing preservatives. The Russian government built a wooden tomb and put the revolutionary on display in Moscow’s Red Square.
The tomb has changed since then, but Lenin’s body looks as good as ever. But such unearthly beauty comes at a high cost — almost $200,000 a year.
That figure comes from an official notice from Russia’s procurement agency. It cites an annual cost of 13 million rubles for the “biomedical” procedure that keeps Lenin in a “lifelike condition.”
The cost of upkeep has fluctuated since 1924. Russian taxpayers have mostly been on the hook for the bill — except for a brief period following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Private donations kept the body beautiful until Moscow could once again take over the ghastly duty.
Attitudes toward Lenin have also changed over the years. During the Soviet years, Russians viewed Lenin as a kind of communist saint. Millions visited his tomb. But after the ’91 collapses, people were free to express opinions they’d long kept to themselves.
That catharsis culminated in a 1998 art exhibit for which artist Yury Shabelnikov baked a lifesize cake replica of Lenin’s interred body and filmed local school children devouring it. The still extant communist party called for an investigation, but its pleas fell on deaf ears.
The science behind preserving Lenin’s corpse is impressive and bizarre. According toScientific American, upkeep requires a team of five or six scientists.
Every other year, the scientists re-embalm the corpse, “submerging the body in separate solutions of glycerol solution baths, formaldehyde, potassium acetate, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid solution and acetic sodium.”
“They have to substitute occasional parts of skin and flesh with plastics and other materials,” University of California, Berkeley social anthropology professor Alexei Yurchak told the science magazine.
Lenin’s death-bath takes a month and a half.
Damage happens and science can only do so much. During the height of the Soviet era, more than 200 people worked to keep Lenin looking fresh. Technicians sewed artificial eyelashes on to the leader, swapped decaying chunks of the man’s face and nose with a mix of paraffin, glycerin and carotene and once replaced portions of his foot when it went missing in 1945.
Today, Russians overwhelming favor burying Lenin. But Pres. Vladimir Putin has pushed back against the idea. In 2001, he told the public that interring the corpse would send a signal to the Russian people that they’d lived under false values during the Soviet era.
Questioned about the expensive embalming in 2012, Putin deflected. “We can see holy remains in the Kiev-Pechora Monastery and in other places,” he said, implying that it’s totally normal to keep historical figures’ bodies on display, well, forever.
Duke Robotics, a Florida-based defense contractor, developed the TIKAD sniper drone, and recently sold some to the Israeli military.
They’re also pitching it to the Pentagon.
The drone is capable of being fitted with a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, a machine gun, or a variety of other weapons, Defense One and Popular Mechanics reported.
It was used successfully by the Israelis but it only stayed airborne for about five minutes due to weight problems, Defense One reported. The TIKAD drone, however, has overcome previous weight and recoil issues.
The co-founder of Duke Robotics, Israeli military veteran Lt. Col. Raziel “Razi” Atuar, said the drone — which is flown and shot by an operator at a distance — will save civilian and soldier lives because it is more precise, as opposed to Reaper, Predator or Switchblade drones that fire missiles.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in. Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt. The operational challenge, it bothered us,” Atuar told Defense One.
“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” University of Sheffield Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC.
“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more,” Sharkey said.
Mary Wareham, of Human Rights Watch, also voiced similar concerns.
Sharkey also told the BBC that he worries about the TIKAD drone, which private citizens can purchase from Duke Robotics, being copied by terrorist groups like ISIS.
“It won’t be long before everyone has copies,” Sharkey told Popular Mechanics. “Some of these will be a lot less stable and less precise. We have already seen ISIS employ small commercial drones for strikes with explosives.”
ISIS has been known to use drones for surveillance, guidance and even for dropping bombs.
The US military wants a missile that can carry explosive-packed drones to a target hundreds of miles away, according to a contract solicitation from the Pentagon.
Earlier this month, the DoD announced it was soliciting proposals for this new missile system, which would be fired by the Army’s existing MGM-140 Tactical Missile System or the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. But unlike traditional armaments, the Army wants this missile packed with unmanned quad-copters that will be released, fly to their target, land, and blow themselves up.
“The ultimate goal is to produce a missile deployable, long range [unmanned aerial system] swarm that can deliver small [explosively formed penetrators] to a variety of targets,” the solicitation reads. “This will serve as a smart augmentation to the standard missile warhead.”
The payload seems to be meant for hard targets, which the Army says could potentially mean tanks, large guns, fuel storage barrels, and vehicle roofs. The contract doesn’t mention exactly how many drones should be packed inside a missile.
Still, it could potentially mean hundreds of drones being deployed to a target, if a test of a “drone swarm” made public earlier this month is any guide. During that test, three F/A-18 Super Hornets spit out more than 100 tiny Perdix drones, which then linked up with each other to collectively make decisions and fly in formation.
We’ve heard this one before, but a senior U.S. military official said Sept. 13 that a swarm of coalition jets bombed a facility near Mosul, Iraq, he claimed was making chemical weapons for the Islamic State terrorist group.
The general in charge of Central Command’s air forces said the recent strike on a former pharmaceutical plant involved a dozen aircraft — from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to B-52 Stratofortresses — on 50 different targets.
“Intelligence had indicated that Daesh converted a pharmaceutical plant complex into a chemical weapons productions capability,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian during a press briefing Sept. 13. “This represents just another example of [ISIS] blatant disregard for international law and norms.”
The air chief admitted there’s a long history of false reporting on chemical weapons production in the Middle East, particularly with Iraq, but said intelligence pointed to specific weapons being manufactured there.
“The target set, as we better understood it, was basically a pharmaceutical element that they were, we believe, using them for most probably chlorine or mustard gas,” Harrigian said. “We don’t know for sure at this point.”
The strike included F-15E Strike Eagles; A-10s; B-52s; Marine F/A-18D Hornets and F-16 Falcons.
“With respect to the number of airplanes we used, so as we looked at the number of points of interest … specifically, we had a pretty significant number of them,” Harrigian said. “And so to allocate the right types of weapons from the — the necessary number of platforms, we needed that many jets to be able to take out the breadth from that facility that was out there on the ground.”
“The strike near Al Bab, Syria, removes from the battlefield ISIL’s chief propagandist, recruiter and architect of external terrorist operations,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. “It is one in a series of successful strikes against ISIL leaders, including those responsible for finances and military planning, that make it harder for the group to operate.”
As the war in Vietnam heated up during the mid-1960s, firearm manufacturers tried to sell the Army new rocket ammunition that could be fired from pistols and carbines, reducing the weight that soldiers carried while nearly doubling the velocity of their rounds.
Weapons manufacturing company MB Associates developed the first “gyrojet” weapons and led the charge in selling them to the U.S. military. The weapons featured rocket-powered rounds filled with a propellant that burned over time instead of exploding when the trigger was pulled.
The weapons had minimal recoil due to the lack of an initial explosion. This slow burn also created less noise, allowing gyrojet firers to avoid the headaches and keep their position relatively secret.
Gyrojets also allowed for a higher firing rate before barrels overheated and provided greater bullet velocity and penetration power at range. All things infantryman love.
But the gyrojet did not become something infantrymen love for a few reasons. Most importantly, they never reached the promised levels of accuracy. Gyrojet rounds were stabilized with vents on the rounds that caused them to spin for stability, but even tiny calibration errors between the jets could send the round spinning off.
Second, one of the primary weapons that MBA was trying to sell was a gyrojet pistol, but gyrojets weren’t lethal at handgun ranges. Since the rounds burn their propellant over time, it takes time and distance for them to reach a speed that would pierce skin or armor on impact. That meant that, during engagements at 10-20 feet, gyrojet firers would likely have watched their rounds bounce off their target.
These dual problems meant that soldiers wouldn’t have been able to engage targets at close range because the round wasn’t flying fast enough or at long range because the round wasn’t accurate enough.
… Gyrojet all over again. If the target is close enough to hit, you can’t kill it. If you can kill it, you can’t hit it.
Still, the gyrojets generated a lot of buzz early on. A Popular Mechanics article from 1962 described the “bizarre bazooka” firing miniature rockets at the enemy. The PM article was optimistic about what it called “microjets,” citing the portability gains:
Microjet definitely will be a guerilla weapon. One fighter can discard his rifle and move lightly with just the small plastic straw and a pocketful of rocket-darts. Also, a number of launching straws can be grouped together to fire a devastating barrage, still controlled by just one man.
Yeah, shooters would need a bunch of “launching straws” to ensure that even one round hit a point target.
Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.
The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.
“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.
The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.
Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.
At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.
The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.
It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.
Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.
Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.
For any comedian out there who has the chance to go off and perform for American forces deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere, filmmaker and comedian Jordan Brady has some advice for you.
“Don’t be a pu**y,” he says. “Count your blessings that you can bring a piece of home to these Americans. Don’t overpack and leave your politics at home.”
Brady put his money where his mouth is, taking off for the CENTCOM area of responsibility – including stops in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan – with comedians Jeff Capri, Slade Ham, Don Barnhart, and Bob Kubota. Their experiences are captured in Brady’s latest documentary “I Am Battle Comic.”
“I think it starts for some as a way to travel, and bragging rights that you did it,” he continues. “But man, that palpable feeling of being of service, supporting those protecting our freedom, and from enemy threats we civilians may never know about, it is so addictive.”
The group gets a taste of military life, from Marine Corps infantry to the Air Force flightline. They’re there to carry on the tradition of Bob Hope and other comics who came before them: To make America’s fighting men and women forget where they are for a few hours.
The film is about more than just having fun performing for troops. The Battle Comics come face-to-face with the reality of modern American warfare: Real people are fighting over there and not all of them make it home – whether the American public realizes that or not.
“You never know if the guy you’re performing for, shaking your hand, snapping the picture with, that’s your Facebook buddy today is gonna be there tomorrow,” says comedian Slade Ham, who has performed for troops in at least 39 countries. “Afghanistan and Iraq are real and if I get to take that kid of of that situation for that long … how many chances do you get to do something that cool?”
“I Am Battle Comic” also includes moving and – at times – tearful testimonials from standup comedy greats like Dave Attell, George Lopez, and the legendary George Wallace. Each attest to being personally moved and changed by their experiences performing for U.S. troops.
“From Bob Hope’s USO shows to Robin Williams, it’s really the best way comedians can support the troops,” Brady says. “So I set out to document that niche of working comedians. Once I met the individual men and women of the military, and felt their gratitude towards us for just telling jokes and visiting, I saw a bigger story.”
The film is now a call to action for civilians to recognize what sacrifices the troops and their families make when deployed, it’s also a peek behind the wire of doing comedy on base.
Once Brady finished editing the film, he skipped the Film Festival circuit and instead screened the film in seven cities, following the screenings with a QA session with the comics. Brady and his production company, Superlounge, then donated the admissions to military charities.
“The QAs evolved into discussions about how we need to recognize those that serve, now and when they return home,” Brady recalls. “We had a few Vietnam Vets that spoke up and crowds applauded them – maybe it was the first time they’ve heard that. These were some of the most magical nights.”
All of the proceeds from theater screenings went to the National Military Family Association, Operation Gratitude, For Veterans’ Sake and the Semper Fi Fund. A portion of the sale price of DVD and digital downloads or rentals will benefit the National Military Family Association.
When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.
the boys i mean are not refined
they go with girls who buck and bite
I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.
It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife. It tells what war is like for all the wives.
I do mean wives.
I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.
That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.
But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.
one hangs a hat upon her tit
one carves a cross on her behind
they do not give a s— for wit
the boys i mean are not refined
These are the people we sacrifice to save.
My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.
A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.
Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.
We signed on for this war together.
We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.
It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.
In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.
the boys i mean are not refined
they cannot chat of that and this
they do not give a fart for art
they kill like you would take a piss
I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.
I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.
I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.
In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.
“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.
“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”
I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.
The movie didn’t show what came next.
The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.
The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.
That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”
“When,” not “if.”
She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.
“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.
the boys i mean are not refined
they shake the mountains when they dance
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.
Like many Air Force pilots, Nick Anderson is enamored with the planes he flew. He is an ROTC graduate from Oregon State University but his lifelong passion started in the creative arts. Unlike most Air Force pilots, his first love became his full-time career. What started as a way to decorate his office now decorates homes and offices all over the world.
“When we started, my Mom would literally copy and paste shipping addresses into a poster printing site,” Anderson recalls. “She did this manually for every single order for the first year and a half, I think it was somewhere around 5,000 orders.”
Now he and his team average a new poster design every day. It’s strange now to see how hard Anderson tried to suppress his creative background, trying to get into Air Force ROTC.
“I remember interviewing with a Lt. Col. for the ROTC scholarship and I had spent a lot of time crafting my resume,” he recalls. “One thing that I kind of buried at the bottom was all of my artistic accolades… He made me pull out my portfolio and I sat there for 10 awkward minutes while he silently flipped through it all. I remember being embarrassed thinking ‘oh man, he’s onto me, an artist is not the type of person the Air Force looks for… I’m going to need to find a new way to pay for college.’ He shut my portfolio and slid it across the table back to me. I started to backpedal and save the interview: ‘I was on student council, did sports, I don’t plan on doing artwork anymore…’ He stopped me mid-sentence and said “Nick, you’re exactly what the AF needs, we need people that think different.”
With that Anderson was on his way to the Air Force, via a Business degree from Oregon State.
Once in pilot training, he found himself looking for decent art with which to decorate his new office. Like most in the Air Force with a fresh new office, he came up predictably short.
“I was looking for something to hang in my office with each of the aircraft I’ve flown so far,” he says. “All I could find was the white background side profile photos of aircraft which were extremely boring and not what I envisioned in my man cave.”
“I remembered those awesome WWII propaganda posters and wondered what happened. The world’s most iconic posters are those art deco and vintage-travel-posters. That entire genre has been lost to modern cheesy photoshopping of photos.” So Anderson made a poster for himself, designing a T-6 Texan flying over rolling hills, with the text “Vance AFB,” his duty station.
“I loved it,” Anderson says. “This is what I could see hanging in my future office, when I showed it to my wife she also thought it was really cool. I made a few more to cover the planes and bases I’d been to so far and I left it at that for over a year.” And so, Squadron Posters was in its infancy. Anderson would soon enter graduate school for a business degree. As part of one of his classes, he had to actually start and register a business.
“I remember racking my brain in my office on what I could do only to look up and see the posters,” Anderson says. “I immediately registered the website squadronposters.com and uploaded a handful of the designs. The entire thing was very crude and barely functional, but it got the point across.” Anderson linked the page to Reddit, where Redditors voted it to the front page. The site received some 10,000 views in the first week.
“Some of my friends started requesting more posters once they saw it,” he continues. “I just started making posters for them — I did an F-15E over Afghanistan print for my buddy Lloyd and he bought it. He was our first customer. This is what makes us different, our art represents not just aircraft, it represents adventure and travel.”
“Since Day 1, we’ve really had some simple goals,” Anderson says. “Our military members do some really incredible things and we want to turn those things into really cool posters, they deserve that. We want our posters to be what Tony Stark would hang in his office. We’ve created almost 1,000 original designs for hundreds of units and you can see everything: helicopters and fighter aircraft, Submarines in Hawaii, GPS satellites, the SR-71 blackbird, Army Rangers, the Coast Guard’s active sailboat, fighter combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq… the list is so massive you just have to go to the site and spend a few hours browsing, it’s really incredible.”
“Immediately after launching we had a very good problem,” he says. “We had so many requests there was no way I could do this alone. That’s where my buddy said to me one day; ‘sounds like you need more artists.’ So we went out and found new artists; Max, Sam, Sergio, Steve and almost a dozen other artists have joined the team. These are world class artists and we attracted them by offering royalties for life and guaranteed payout for new art pieces. They also get creative freedom to make anything they think that might be cool and we guarantee to pay them for those as well. This is how we stay relevant and keep refreshing the site.”
“We’ve done all this without ever charging design fees to our customers because who likes fees? If you have an idea for a new poster, our team of artists will make it happen. The response from the community has been amazing, I can’t even begin to describe the amount of times people have relied on us for retirement ceremonies, going aways, deployment welcome homes, spring office remodeling projects, birthdays, Christmas etc. It’s very humbling and inspiring to think that thousands of walls around the world now have our artwork hanging there.”
“If you go to our site it looks very polished like what you’d see from a big company, but if you call our phone my dad answers, we’re still a small family business.”
U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.
Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.
Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.
“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”
Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”
The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.
The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.
Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.
Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.
Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.
Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.
Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.
“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.
The new bomber is a $550 million heavy payload stealth aircraft, capable of carrying thermonuclear weapons and could also be used as an intelligence gatherer, battle manager, and interceptor aircraft.
Even though the USAF tweeted the contest link to the world, it’s only open to members of the US Air Force active duty force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components, their dependents, members of the US Air Force Civil Service and US Air Force retirees. And of course, the Air Force being the Air Force, it comes with a lot of rules and regulations:
The name must be original and the entry may not contain material that violates or infringes any third party’s rights, including but not limited to privacy, publicity or intellectual property rights, or that constitutes copyright infringement. The entry must not contain or be phonetic similar to any third party product names, brand names or trademarks.
The entry must not contain material that is inappropriate, indecent, obscene, hateful, tortuous, defamatory, slanderous or libelous. The entry must not contain material that promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual or promotes discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age. The entry must not contain material that is unlawful, in violation of or contrary to the laws or regulations in any state where entry is created. There is a limit of three names you may enter per person.
This is your chance to be part of history (so long as it fits within Air Force guidelines and standards).
In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.
Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.
The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.
The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”
Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.
The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.
A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.
Matt Baetz is a comedian, actor, writer, and host and a veteran of six Armed Forces Entertainment and USO tours across the world. He’s performed his standup routine for the troops in Afghanistan, Africa, Bahrain, Cuba, Greenland, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He’s also done numerous television and radio appearances on shows like “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and Playboy Radio. He was awarded Best of the Fest Performer from the NY Fringe Festival for his role in the 2014 play, “Kemble’s Riot.”
“Not just anyone can hack these tours,” Baetz said. “The schedule is demanding and the living conditions are sometimes not the best. But I explain to the talent right up front that, wherever we go, I don’t want them coming right out of the gate and asking whether there’s wifi or complaining about the coffee. We’re there for the people serving away from home.”
Here’s a look at four of the stops on the recent tour:
Today, Armed Forces Entertainment is the single point of contact for the Department of Defense for providing entertainment to troops overseas. More than 60 tours are sent out providing over 600 performances per year to 400,000 soldiers.
Here’s a brief history of the organization:
World War II-1951: The United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows program recruited and fielded live entertainment for military personnel. Camp Shows usually consisted of well-known celebrities who were recruited to entertain military personnel serving overseas. For many entertainers, this was their first time performing and traveling abroad. However, the Camp Shows scheduling, which was coordinated by each Service, was considered inconsistent.
1951-1970: Before the establishment of the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1951, the Military Services agreed to provide a single point of contact for the USO. The Secretary of the Army was designated as the administrative agent for the DoD’s relationship with the USO. Operational responsibility rested with the Adjutant General, then transferred to the Commander, U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. In 1951, Service representatives were assigned to the new Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office (AFPEO) to administer the fielding of USO Shows, provide shows where the USO Camp Shows were unable, and establish a regularly scheduled program. Units consisted of celebrities, professional artists, college groups sponsored by the American Theater Association (ATA) and the All American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS). The USO and DoD sent thousands of entertainers, celebrity and non-celebrity, to entertain U.S. military personnel, DoD and Department of State civilians, and their family members worldwide. By the end of the Vietnam era, virtually all of the programmed shows were non-celebrity with DoD fielding over half of the units.
1982: USO canceled the non-celebrity program to concentrate on the recruitment and fielding of well-known celebrity entertainment. The DoD directed the Secretary of the Army to assume responsibility for the non-celebrity program. In June, all non-celebrity entertainment units sent abroad were participating in the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program overseas, nicknamed “DoD Overseas Shows”. In addition to the non-celebrity program, the AFPEO continued to uphold DoD’s portion of the celebrity show responsibilities with the USO. These shows were renamed “USO/DoD Celebrity Shows.”
1989: The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) assumed operational control of the AFPEO with the Secretary of the Army remaining the Executive Agent. This assumption was designed to elevate the AFPEO’s authority, facilitate coordination, and increase program visibility.
1997: The U.S. Air Force was assigned the Executive Agent for providing celebrity and non-celebrity programs to troops serving overseas, creating the jointly-manned office, Armed Forces Entertainment.