The ROTC Medal of Heroism was posthumously awarded to the family of Riley Howell during a private ceremony held at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, May 11, 2019, in recognition of his actions when a gunman opened fire on students at the school on April 30, 2019.
According to the award summary, “He protected his fellow classmates by tackling the suspect and using his body as a human shield. His actions that day left him mortally wounded, but he saved an undeterminable amount of lives. Mr. Howell demonstrated the values of the United States Army by showing a high level of integrity, honor, and selfless service on that fateful day.”
Even though Howell was taking ROTC courses, but was not contracted to become an Army officer, Lt. Col. Chunka Smith, Professor of Military Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said he always set a great example and would have made an excellent officer.
Riley Howell, UNC Charlotte student who died confronting gunman, awarded Civilian Medal of Valor
“Though our time with Riley was brief, I can tell you that he stood out. I make it a point to shake the hands of all 180 Cadets in our program. All of them are phenomenal men and women, but Riley stood out because of his strong, tall, athletic build and his overall calm presence,” he said. “He embodied everything we look for in future officers.
“At the end of each semester my cadre and I sit down to review line by line all of the students on path to contract and those who we want to recruit. Riley was one of those individuals I would have called into my office to recruit,” Smith said.
He went on to say Howell and his actions would not soon be forgotten.
“Each year 180 plus Army ROTC students will know the story of Riley Howell and the sacrifice he made. They will carry and spread the legacy of Riley Howell,” Smith said.
The ROTC Medal for Heroism is awarded to cadets who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism performed on or off campus. According to Cadet Command Regulation 672-5-1, “The achievement must result in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances,” and “the performance must involve the acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”
The Germans in WWII were at the forefront of industrialized warfare. They produced the first jet-powered bomber, developed the first tilt-rotor plane, and discovered fission. In most cases, Allied scientists and planners struggled to, through long hours of research and experimentation, close the technological gaps exposed by German advances. When possible though, they just stole everything they could find and called it a day.
1. Airborne Operations
The first airborne operations in combat were all executed by Germans during invasions of European countries. Normandy, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands all fell quickly while small units of German paratroopers seized key infrastructure or destroyed enemy defenses ahead of the main army. In the Battle of Crete, British intelligence operatives were able to determine the exact locations that German paratroopers would land and inflicted heavy losses. Adolf Hitler banned future large-scale airborne operations, but Britain and America were impressed by the ability of the airborne to complete their mission despite the losses. The Allies drastically stepped up their training and organizing of airborne units. The paratroopers they trained contributed decisively to the successful invasions of Sicily and Normandy.
Synchropter is a specific class of helicopter, one that uses intermeshing blades that turn in opposite directions. An unmanned version is being evaluated for medical evacuation missions by the Marine Corps. The HH-43 was a Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force synchropter used from the 1950s-1970s as a rescue and firefighting helicopter. Designs for both helicopters borrow heavily from a Fleittner Fl 282 recovered during Operation Lusty. Allied aviators didn’t just benefit from recovering the helicopter though. They also got the designer, Anton Flettner through Operation Paperclip.
3. Jet-powered aircraft
The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first jet airplane used in combat and it was very effective against Allied bomber formations. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union seized Me 262s as they captured German territory and reverse engineered the German planes. While neither country would finish building jet aircraft during the war, when American F-86 Sabres later faced off against Soviet MiG-15s in MiG Alley over Korea, it was a fight between Me 262 descendants. Similarly, the U.S. captured the Arado Ar 234 jet-powered bomber. Technology from the Arado would go on to be found in the U.S. Army Air Force’s B-45s and B-47s.
4. Cruise missiles
In June 1944, V-1 flying bombs started raining down on London. The V-1, “the buzz bomb”, was inaccurate but took a psychological toll on the British. The U.S. wanted its own version in preparation for the invasion of mainland Japan, and so recovered pieces of crashed and detonated V-1s. By September, it had successfully tested the JB-2 Loon, a virtual copy of the V-1. The JB-2 was never fired in combat since nuclear weapons were dropped first and Japan surrendered. Technology from the V-1 would later appear in the MGM-1 Matador, though the Matador would use a turbojet instead of the pulse jet that gave the V-1 its signature buzzing sound.
Rocket science was one of the key areas of interest during Operation Paperclip. Famously, the scientists who pioneered the U.S. and Soviet space programs were taken from Germany in the final months and years immediately after the war. At first, both the U.S. and Soviets constructed their own V-2 bombs before kicking off the space race in earnest. The stolen V-2s and their creators paved the way for U.S. rocket programs from the Redstone rockets to the Saturn and Apollo missions. The Saturn rocket, used in the Apollo program, is the only rocket that has carried a man outside of low earth orbit.
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), closed out 2018 on a high note with the acceptance of the ship’s first advanced weapons elevator (AWE), setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead.
AWE Upper Stage #1 was turned over to the ship on Dec. 21, 2018, following testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the ship is currently working through its post-shakedown availability (PSA). The acceptance marks a major milestone for the ship and the Ford-class of aircraft carriers to follow.
USS Gerald R. Ford is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier and is the first new carrier design in over 40 years. Unlike Nimitz-class carrier elevators that utilize cables for movement, the Ford class elevators are commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors allowing for greater capacities and a faster movement of weapons.
The new design will allow the ship to be able to move up to 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute. This is in contrast to the 10,500 pounds at up to 100 feet-per-minute on a Nimitz-class carrier.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
“This will allow us to load more aircraft faster, and in the long run, increase our overall sortie generation rates,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford’s ordnance handling officer.
But aside from the advantages of the new AWE, the new ship design also offered a chance to streamline the overall movement and assembly of weapons to allow for even greater efficiencies. Ford features three upper stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and flight deck, and seven lower stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and the lower levels of the ship. Ford also features a dedicated weapons handling area between the hangar bay and the flight deck, on the 02 level, that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations. This ultimately offers a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft.
An additional benefit of the ship’s design is a separate utility elevator that can serve as a dedicated elevator to move both ordnance and supplies, and also serve as a means to medically evacuate (MEDEVAC) injured personnel from the flight deck to the hangar bay. This allows the 10 main AWEs and Ford’s three aircraft elevators to be dedicated to their primary missions of ordnance and aircraft movement during real-world operations.
To keep up with the new technologies and radical changes that the AWEs offer, Ford sailors recently completed newly developed familiarization, operations and maintenance training in Newport News to become better educated on how to work with and maintain the elevators. The crew is now conducting hands-on training where they will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation. Their feedback and observations will ultimately inform future sailors how to properly and safely operate the elevators.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
Alexander said sailors are now training with the elevator which will complement the classroom instruction they have received to this point.
“Getting this elevator turned over to the ship and allowing our sailors to get hands-on training on the elevator will help in two ways,” said Alexander. “One, it will help in the training and understanding of the system itself, and two, to work out any bugs that remain with the system during our PSA.”
Though the first elevator has been accepted, work still remains on the remaining 10. Currently, all shipboard installation and testing activities of the AWEs are due to be completed prior to the end of Ford’s PSA, scheduled for July 2019. However, some remaining certification documentation will be performed for five of the 11 elevators after PSA completion.
According to Alexander, while there was sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in having the first elevator turned over, the team working on the elevators can’t rest on this single event.
“We’re all 100 percent invested in this, but there’s still work left to do,” Alexander explained. “We’re all one big team with the same goal in mind: to get these systems operational and turned over to the ship.
“I think it was a greater sense of accomplishment to my sailors that have been working on these systems for the last 4-to-5 years,” he said. “To be able to finally push the buttons and watch it operate like it’s designed to do was a great feeling. Once these systems are proven, they are going to pay huge dividends for naval strike capability.”
Florence Finch was born with the heart of a American warrior. Her father was a U.S. Army veteran of the Spanish-American war who opted to stay in the the Philippines after the war, where he met his wife.
Finch worked as a civilian for the Army headquarters in Manila before World War II broke out. That’s where she met her first husband, a Navy sailor in 1941. Later in life she joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (also known as SPARS) “to avenge her husband’s death.”
Finch would distinguish herself in the Japanese occupation of the island chain. She was the first woman to receive the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon and was later awarded the Medal of Freedom. She died in December 2016 at age 101 and was given a burial with full military honors on Apr. 29, 2017.
Her husband was killed in action six days after Manila fell to Japan. She hid her American lineage from the occupiers and found herself managing fuel rations in Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union. Finch began to covertly divert those supplies to the Philippine Underground while helping coordinate sabotage operations with other resistance fighters.
For two years, Florence Smith (her first married name) managed to help fight the Japanese occupation. Her former Army employers, now Japanese POWs, managed to get word to her of their mistreatment and suffering in prison. She immediately began smuggling food, medicine, and other supplies to them. This was a much trickier operation and she was caught in October 1944.
The Japanese arrested, imprisoned, and tortured her until she was liberated by American troops in February 1945. They wanted her to give them everything she knew about the resistance movement. She never broke. Finch weighed only 80 pounds when she was freed.
According to the Troy Record-News, she repeatedly told herself: “I will survive.”
Soon after, she moved to upstate New York, where she joined the SPARS. The war ended shortly after, but when her superiors in the Coast Guard found out about her wartime activities, they awarded her the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon. She served honorably for two years.
That’s when her former U.S. Army boss in the Philippines, Lt. Col. E.C. Engelhart, penned this testimonial to award her the Medal of Freedom:
For meritorious service which had aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against the enemy in the Philippine Islands, from June 1942 to February 1945. Upon the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands, Mrs. Finch (then Mrs. Florence Ebersole Smith) believing she could be of more assistance outside the prison camp, refused to disclose her United States citizenship. She displayed outstanding courage and marked resourcefulness in providing vitally needed food, medicine, and supplies for American Prisoners of War and internees, and in sabotaging Japanese stocks of critical items. . .She constantly risked her life in secretly furnishing money and clothing to American Prisoners of War, and in carrying communications for them. In consequence she was apprehended by the Japanese, tortured, and imprisoned until rescued by American troops. Thought her inspiring bravery, resourcefulness, and devotion to the cause of freedom, Mrs. Finch made a distinct contribution to the welfare and morale of American Prisoners of War on Luzon.
After the war, she married U.S. Army veteran Robert Finch and moved to Ithaca, New York, where she lived until age 101. She worked as a secretary at Cornell University, where no one knew about her life as a war hero.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.
But in recent years, this power has been fading.
From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:
10. The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.
9. The Pacific
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)
The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
8. The Philippines
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.
China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
5. Latin America
The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.
As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
3. The Arab Middle East
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.
In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.
Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.
The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.
The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.
The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.
The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.
Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.
This piece is an opinion piece of the author. Response articles are always welcomed by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new threat has risen in the East once again. Born from communism, nurtured by corporate greed and emboldened by appeasement, the Chinese Communist Party is on a path of world domination. Chinese propaganda alleges “the 21st century belongs to China” and also referred to it as the Chinese Century. However, despite the paper dragon’s roar, it has no bite. Too long has Chinese aggression gone unchecked, unpunished on the world stage. Australia, UK, India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other countries are changing to more aggressive policies with the CCP. A war with China will not be a war between two Nations, it will be the Third World War: The world versus China.
1. Illegal islands
The importance of the South China Sea cannot be understated. It serves as a mercantile corridor for more than three trillion dollars worth of shipping per year. In recent decades, undersea oil deposits have been discovered. A large number of the world population relies on its rich fishing territories for their food needs. The CCP has attempted to enforce a weak, fabricated, unenforceable claim to the sea. Without exaggeration, the contested area on the map looks ridiculous. The CCP wants to claim 80% of the area, effectively stealing historically-owned seas of other nations in the Pacific.
China’s illegal claim to the South China sea, also known as the “nine-dash line,” was ruled to have no claim in the area by the Hague Tribunal. To counter this, they built islands to serve as military bases. These man-made islands are unsinkable aircraft carriers for the Chinese military. CCP’s history of bullying other nations also extends to preventing them from harvesting their resources in their own waters.
There are a few weaknesses to these islands:
They are far away from the mainland.
Most of the islands only have one runway.
They are vulnerable to typhoons.
Islands are crumbling because they cut corners and are sinking into the ocean. A few strong typhoons could sweep the Illegal Islands into the sea. While they are military bases with anti-air capabilities, the islands themselves are not a direct military threat. They are bait for retaliation against any nation that does not appease China. The CCP is using a strategy of aggression and counting on appeasement not unlike Hitler as he expanded the Third Reich. They are also employing a tactic called aggressive defense. This is when one lures the enemy into making the first move and then you can maneuver a counter-attack on the most advantageous terms.
3. Relentless identity theft and cyber-attacks against the U.S.
The former Director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina warns that the CCP has stolen 80% of personally identifiable information. The Chinese government is using the information gained from cyber-attacks to the benefit of the CCP military. State-sponsored hackers are constantly attacking our infrastructure and private companies to gain a tactical edge over America.
There are two ways Chinese interests are gaining access to our personal biodata. Either we are giving it to them unwittingly through unread, signed terms and conditions. Or, state-sponsored Chinese hackers are stealing it from the healthcare, biotech and pharma companies who we trust to protect it.
Yaniv Bar-Dayan, CEO and co-founder at Vulcan Cyber
4. They are using our DNA to develop bioweapons
There is an ongoing international investigation on whether the COVID-19 epidemic was an accidental or deliberate outbreak orchestrated by the communists. Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus, is also home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The level 4 biosafety facility has over 1,500 different strains of the coronavirus. With rising tensions in the East, we cannot rule out that China is developing bioweapons to be unleashed on the world. Other allegations point to the CCP stealing DNA information of people to develop weapons that will only target minorities. China considers anyone not Han Chinese to be a minority. India is accusing China of “surreptitiously developing a biological weapon capable of mass destruction.”
Regardless, the unwillingness of the Chinese government to cooperate with investigators from the World Health Organization is highly suspicious. Are the Chinese conducting a cover up to hide aweaponized coronavirus? Are they covering up criminal incompetence? What consequences could be brought down on the Beijing if our worst suspicions are proven to be true? America is not alone in thinking China is a problem. No one wants a World War but if China’s increasingly problematic actions continue, force may be necessary.
The inability to comprehend the maliciousness of Xi Jinping’s actions. Minds rebel against the notion that the world now faces a monster. Democracies, although they have been attacked, have always had difficulty recognizing evil. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the world faces with communist China’s regime.
Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China
Retired Army Col. G.B. Singh and his daughter Air Force Reserve 2nd Lt. Naureen Singh.
Sikhism is the fifth largest world religion, according to the Sikh Coalition, with 500,000 Sikhs living within the U.S. Among the core beliefs is service to humanity, a principle the Singh family hopes to be fulfilling through their military commitment across generations.
Air Force Reserve 2nd Lt. Naureen Singh, 26, grew up watching her father, retired Col. G.B. Singh, serve as an officer in the U.S. Army. Though he was stationed overseas in places like Korea and Germany, her parents made the decision to keep the family in Colorado Springs for stability.
When attending community group events for South Asians or Sikh, Naureen was confused about why her father was the only one in the military.
“It didn’t really click in my head that my dad is a really unique case until I got a lot older,” she said.
The distinctiveness comes into play because as a Sikh there are certain aspects to their faith that made a goal of military service difficult to obtain at the time. Those who identify as Sikh do not believe in cutting any hair on their bodies and most men wear a turban. In fact, the Sikh Coalition states 99% of the people wearing turbans in America are Sikhs.
Both the turban and unshorn hair are considered articles of faith and a constant reminder to remember their values. These two articles in particular create a barrier to a military that prides itself on uniformity.
Singh’s father pursued a commissioning in 1979. Two years later the Department of Defense banned the turban and long hair. Although he was grandfathered in, Naureen says her father felt honor bound to fight for Sikhs to be able to serve while following their faith.
“It was not easy for him. Day in and day out he had an uphill battle trying to be an officer but then also be an officer with a certain faith,” Naureen explained.
AIr Force 2nd Lt. Naureen Singh, the 310th Space Wing director of equal opportunity, stands outside the wing headquarters building on Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marko Salopek.
She remembers going on base and listening to people question his rank, not believing he was an officer. Despite treatment like this, she said her father had an overwhelmingly positive experience which he credited to having supportive higher ups.
He went on to become one of the highest-ranking Sikhs to keep his turban and serve on active duty, retiring in 2007.
Practicing Sikhs have served in the U.S. military since World War I. Over 80,000 Sikhs died fighting for the allied forces during World War II. Few temporary religious accommodations were granted following the ban in the 1980s, preventing a whole generation of Sikhs from serving.
“I do think it is really important to recognize that when you are diverse of thought or of background, you bring a new voice to the table … that voice can help with mission accomplishment,” Naureen explained.
In 2017, a successful lawsuit opened the door for more Sikhs to join the military without issue, meaning they can file for a religious exemption to wear a turban and beard.
Naureen completed Air Force Officer Training School earlier this year. She began her journey in 2016, inspired by her father’s service. She is also pursuing a Master of Criminal Justice degree from the University of Colorado at Denver.
She shared that she didn’t always know what she wanted to do or that the military would be her path.
“I was born in the states and my parents, who immigrated from India, grew up with a different outlook than mine. I was always too American for my Indian friends and too Indian for my American friends. It was so hard to see where I belonged,” Naureen said.
There were also other struggles growing up that added to the difficulty of finding herself.
“I grew up in the shadows of 9/11. I think growing up after 9/11 and seeing how we equated the turban with terrorism in this country … Here I was trying to fit in, but in media I would see people who had turbans like my dad be projected in a very certain light. That’s why I think I shoved my identity to the side, I didn’t want to make myself stand out,” Naureen said.
After finishing college, she realized thinking that way was detrimental and embraced her identity as a Sikh.
“If you look at Sikh history and especially Sikh soldiers, it makes me meant to be in this force. It took a long time to get there though,” she said with a smile.
Naureen hopes her family’s story and journey will inspire others to serve, adding those aspiring to join the military should just go for it.
“Don’t ever doubt yourself or put restrictions on yourself … Keep pushing. If my dad could do it in the 1970s, anyone can do it.”
Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.
“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)
Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.
So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.
Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.
The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .
Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.
The enemy melted away.
Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.
Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.
“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”
Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.
“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.
Donald Trump broke major news on his Twitter account on Dec. 22, tweeting, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
The tweet came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to strengthen the Russian nuclear arsenal. So, how can we revitalize the nuclear arsenal?
1. Modernize the Tech
As 60 Minutes reported in 2014, our land-based ICBMs still use 8-inch floppy disks for the computers that receive the president’s launch orders. In an era where a MicroSD card that can hold 128 gigabytes is available on Amazon.com for about $40, it seems like the computers could have been upgraded and made much more reliable a long time ago.
Some systems have fared better than others. The B61 gravity bomb is slated for some modernization. So have the planes that deliver that bomb, like the B-2 Spirit. The B-1 and B-52 have received upgrades as well.
That said, those upgrades are mostly for delivering conventional weapons.
2. Develop New Delivery Systems
According to Designation-Systems.net, the LGM-30 Minuteman entered service in 1962. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile entered service in 1981. The BGM-109 Tomahawk was operational in 1983. The B-52H entered service in 1961, while the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986.
The only strategic systems younger than music superstar Taylor Swift (born on Dec. 13, 1989) are the UGM-133 Trident II, which entered service in March, 1990, and the B-2 Spirit, which entered service in 1997.
At the end of the Cold War, some new systems were also chopped, notably the AGM-131 Short-Range Attack Missile II and the Midgetman small ICBM, while the LGM-118 Peacekeeper was negotiated away.
Newer means of delivering nukes might be a good idea, including versions of the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
Ivan Safronov (right), adviser to the Roscosmos State Corporation General Director, remanded in custody for two months on suspicion of treason, leaves a hearing at Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court.
Russia has arrested a former journalist on a charge of high treason for allegedly passing military secrets to a NATO government in what some are calling a clear attack on press freedoms.
Ivan Safronov Jr., who since May has been working as an adviser to the chief of Russia’s state space agency Roskosmos, was detained and searched by armed officers of the FSB security service outside his Moscow apartment on July 7 before being taken to court, where he entered a not guilty plea. The court ordered him held behind bars until September 6.
Prosecutors accuse him of passing information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about the sale of Russian arms to the Middle East and Africa, his lawyer Ivan Pavlov said. Safronov was working as a journalist at the time covering issues related to the activities of Russia’s military industrial sector. Russia claims the United States was the final beneficiary of the information, Pavlov said.
Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
His arrest — the latest in a series of law enforcement actions against Russian journalists and researchers — sparked outrage among former colleagues and prompted dozens to protest outside the FSB headquarters in Moscow.
“The experience of the last few years shows that any citizen of Russia whose work is connected with public activities — whether it is a human rights defender, scientist, journalist, or employee of a state corporation — can face a serious charge at any time,” Kommersant, the newspaper where Safronov worked for a decade until last year, said in a statement on its website.
Kommersant called Safronov a “true patriot of Russia” and said the FSB allegations were “absurd.” It also called on prosecutors to make the case as open to the public as possible, saying it’s hard for people accused of treason in Russia to get a fair trial.
Andrei Soldatov, a respected journalist who has written extensively about Russia’s security services, called Safronov’s arrest “a new level of repression” against reporters.
“I can only think of one reason why this is happening – we are being told what other topics of importance for society are now off limits for all except ‘for those who should know,'” he said in a Facebook post.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Safronov’s arrest was linked to his work as a reporter.
“He is accused of high treason, of passing secret data to foreign intelligence. As far as we are informed, the detainment has nothing to do with the journalistic activities Safronov was involved with in the past,” Peskov said.
Pavel Chikov, a top human rights lawyer whose organization, Agora, provides legal support to Russians detained in politically motivated cases, wrote on Telegram that police also searched the apartment of journalist Taisia Bekbulatova, who is believed to be close to Safronov.
According to Chikov, after the search she was questioned as a witness in an unspecified case along with her lawyer Nikolai Vasilyev.
TASS and Interfax both quoted unidentified sources as saying Bekbulatova is being questioned as a witness in the Safronov case.
As a journalist, Safronov mainly covered issues related to the activities of Russia’s military industrial sector, including an accident last year on an atomic submarine and the nation’s military exercises.
His father, Ivan Safronov Sr., also worked for Kommersant, focusing mainly on the military industrial complex’s operations.
Safronov Sr. died at the age of 51 after he mysteriously fell out of a corridor window in his apartment block in Moscow in 2007. Police concluded the death was a suicide, though relatives and friends say they suspect foul play.
Safronov Jr. was fired from Kommersant in May 2019 after writing an article about the possible resignation of Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber. Matviyenko continues to serve as its chairwoman.
Safronov’s firing led to a crisis at the paper after all of the journalists in Kommersant’s politics department resigned in protest. He soon joined Vedomosti, then the nation’s leading business newspaper, before quitting following an ownership change that installed a Kremlin-friendly chief editor.
In June 2019, media reports surfaced saying that Kommersant might face administrative lawsuits for making state secrets public.
It was not clear which state secrets had been made public, but one of Safronov’s articles about Russia’s plans to deliver Su-35 military planes to Egypt was removed from the newspaper’s website.
At the time, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo warned of possible sanctions against Egypt if Cairo purchased the planes from Moscow, The Bell website said.
Kommersant Director General Vladimir Zhelonkin told the Open Media group on July 7 that there were no issues with authorities related to Safronov’s article published last year in his newspaper, adding that the article in question did not contain any data that might be classified as a state secret.
Following Safronov’s detainment on July 7, more than 20 journalists were held by police as they staged single-picket protests in front of the Federal Security Service’s headquarters in Moscow. They were demanding “transparency, openness, and detailed information” on Safronov’s case.
Other journalists continued the single-picket protests, which do not require pre-approval from the authorities.
Safronov’s arrest is at least the third of a current or former journalist in the past 13 months that has garnered national attention and raised fears of a further curtailment of media freedom.
Ivan Golunov, an investigative reporter for Meduza, was arrested in Moscow in June on drug charges that were later dropped following street protests.
Police later admitted to planting the drugs on the reporter, who worked on stories about corruption at the highest echelons of the government and security services.
Svetlana Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, was found guilty this month of “justifying terrorism” for a commentary she gave to a radio station.
Prosecutors sought a six-year prison term for Prokopyeva, who linked a suicide bombing with the country’s political climate.
If your idea of self-care is eating paleo and running ultra marathons, I’ve got news for you – you’re missing out.
Self-care goes way beyond the way you feed or train your body: It’s about health at multiple levels. At its core it requires attention to regulating your nervous system – to regularly giving your brain and endocrine system (your body’s network of hormone-producing glands) the chance to calm down and return to normal levels.
This type of self-regulation is important for your physical and mental performance whether you’re an elite athlete or an everyday person of any age.
Pain isn’t always weakness leaving the body
As a veteran, you know that the military does a great job attaching metrics to physical fitness. Service members are required to pay attention to their physicality, and intensity is emphasized. These are good things in many ways. After all, you can’t see improvement without testing your body’s limits.
However, the military often falls short on the topic of balanced wellness. Many veterans leave their time in service physically broken, with muscular imbalances, and hold fast to the belief that if training is hurting, it’s helping. We might even think that only malingerers, failures, and dirtbags take time to care for themselves.
I’m not here to suggest that you give up your high intensity training. But I am here to say that the whole point of intensity should be about using it to increase your performance in a smart and productive way.
Whether your goal is muscle growth or cardiovascular improvement, attaining your specific training objectives will be easier when you lower your blood cortisol levels (the stress hormones your body produces).
You can do this by practicing self care and something called “mindful movement.”
But isn’t mindful movement for hippies?
Mindful movement is as useful for grunts as it is for POGs as it is for civilians. Here’s what career infantry officer Maj. Gen. Thomas Jones, USMC (Ret.), has to say about it:
“For many years as an infantry officer, I worked feverishly to build resiliency in combat Marines. However, and unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was a civilian that I learned that I was missing the central, necessary ingredient…to crafting resiliency: a thorough understanding of the physiology of stress within the body…I learned that mindfulness enabled me to personally address stressors with positive outcomes.”
Mindfulness is a form of self-care, and what it really means is that you’re paying close attention to your breath and body so you can discover how to care for yourself. For example, if you notice that you have really tight hips, you should work to correct the problem instead of ignoring it. This type of awareness is a very calming thing – we can use breath as a vehicle to connect our (sometimes very) disconnected mental and physical selves, and it can let us know how we need to adjust our training or lives to perform more effectively.
When we’re busy and stressed, paying attention to the needs of the physical body is one of the first things to go. However, we can benefit tremendously from figuring out when we’re not in a rested state and then working to provide our bodies and minds with opportunities to relax.
Why are mindfulness and self-care so good for me?
When we effectively manage stressed out bodies and minds, our levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are lowered. Lowering cortisol is helpful because it improves our brain’s ability to function and our body’s ability to perform.
Alternately, high levels of cortisol encourage your body to seek out and crave simple carbs and store them as fat. Too much cortisol also impairs upper-level cognition in our brains – making it harder to think clearly, experience empathy, and communicate effectively. It can also degrade our physical performance.
Finding ways to lower our stress – even if only for a few moments – has the opposite effect and is incredibly beneficial to us.
So what does a drop in stress hormones feel like? Think about the last time you enjoyed an activity or training – when you took a deep breath in and you just felt that “Ahhh!” feeling – even if you were working hard and running up and down trails. You may find it while running, skiing, doing yoga, getting a deep tissue massage, or even lifting weights. Some people call it a “click,” or a “shift.”
That moment will look different for everyone, but when you find it, take note.
If I want to practice self-care – where should I start?
The first and most important step to practicing self-care is to commit to managing your time so you can structure a plan for success.
Next look at how what you’re doing on a daily basis makes you feel. Tune into that and take notes for a few days. Do you feel depleted at the end of a day? Energized? Hopeless? Keyed up?
Once you have a read on how you’re doing, begin to expand your skills. If you only know one or two tools to make yourself feel better, the good news is that you have lots of room to grow. Continue to do what you already know you like and benefit from, then learn and add in a couple of new options to your wellness program and nutritional choices.
Pay attention to how you’re treating your body with food. Consider taking fast food and soda out of the options column for yourself. If you don’t want to take them out, then look to add items that taste amazing and are healthy. Instead of restricting, add in.
If you feel overwhelmed as you think about all the training and wellness options out there, consider plugging into an organization or non-profit that can teach you helpful skills. As a veteran, if you can imagine a self-care or mindful movement option, a non-profit probably exists that supplies it.
Self Care Resources
Outdoor Odyssey – Funded weeklong retreats for wounded, ill and injured active-duty and veteran warriors, designed to craft a definitive plan for the future with the support of a team. Designed and operated by those who have been there!
Outward Bound – OIF/OEF veterans can enjoy all-expenses paid week-long trips rock climbing, dog sledding, sailing, and more, as they learn the value of compassionate leadership.
Sierra Club Military Outdoors – Power ski, ice climb, whitewater raft and more alongside fellow veterans in some of America’s most stunning backcountry.
Just Roll With It Wellness Retreat – This free three-day retreat teaches self-care and mindfulness practices, gives you the opportunity to connect with other veterans interested in physical and mental health, and includes a travel stipend.
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.