The Army’s top surgeon said Aug. 18 the service is working with its combat medics to deal with casualties that can’t be airlifted immediately out of the battle zone and back to surgical facilities for hours or days, arming the first responders with new gear and techniques designed to keep a soldier alive well past the so-called “Golden Hour” that’s contributed to a record-level survival rate for wounded troops.
Lieutenant Gen. Nadja West said the Army’s 68W Healthcare Specialist cadre will have to be armed with sophisticated sensors to measure a patient’s vital signs, be trained to use new lifesaving equipment like tourniquets that can wrap around a patient’s waist or chest and be given technology that will allow them to “reach back” from the battlefield to surgeons in the rear who can deliver expert advice far from the operating room.
“We’ve had the luxury of air superiority so we could evacuate our casualties at will,” West told WATM at a recent meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. “We’re trying to make sure that in an environment where it’s not as permissive — where we’re going to have to retain casualties longer — we have the ability to do this prolonged care.”
West added that in Afghanistan, for example, there were cases where patients were flown out of the combat zone and back to Bethesda Naval Medical Center and on the operating table within 24 hours. But in future wars, that capability might not exist.
In the wars since 9/11, the Army has benefitted from American air dominance which allowed slow-moving, poorly-armed medical evacuation helicopters to speed to the battle and pick up wounded in a matter of minutes. That’s led to a 93 percent survival rate for wounded soldiers, a 75 percent increase since the Vietnam war.
But the Army is worried that wars in the near future won’t allow a speedy MEDEVAC, so its medics will have to deal with situations like potential limb loss from tourniquets staying on longer than usual to fluid pooling in the brain or organs, West said. That doesn’t mean that all of the sudden 68Ws have to be trained as vascular surgeons, but they do have to be able to get detailed information that’ll help keep their patients alive.
“Telehealth is going to be very important and we’re working on that,” West said of capabilities being developed for detailed medical communication on the battlefield.
“So you’re actually talking to a vascular surgeon when you’re down range and say ‘Hey I’m looking at this vessel, what do I need to do?’ ” West explained. “You’re not going to make them trauma surgeons, but at least you have someone that can give them the expertise that can do things right there.”
West also said the Army was experimenting with ways to attach sensors to soldiers so that intensive care specialists in the rear can get detailed information about a patient’s condition and be able to render advice to a medic on managing the casualty over a longer period.
“So I see not having to train them on every single thing, but having the reach-back capability to say okay, I’m looking at this, what do I need to do?” she said. “That’s what I see in the future. Rather than trying to overload them with everything, give them the reach back to help them answer those questions.”
In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.
Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.
“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”
Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.
Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.
The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.
They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.
“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that.’ “
What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.
Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.
2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.
Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:
Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…
DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.
Robots joining human squads
Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.
DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.
U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable
Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.
The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.
The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes
The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.
One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.
It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.
The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.
Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)
Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.
The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.
Again, not where we normally go for violent advice, either.
Tips run the gamut from always knowing which way you’ll run in a crisis to remembering to keep razor blades hidden nearby and carrying a steel barrel pen that can withstand multiple stabs against an opponent.
Check out the video below. For a guide you can carry around with you, check out the book linked above.
In 1918, World War I was in its fourth year. Imperial Russia had succumbed to the Communist Revolution and capitulated to Imperial Germany. In the West, a race against time was on. The Allies of Great Britain and France were watching with mounting concern as German armies from the Eastern Front began reinforcing those on the Western Front. Their armies, having been bled white and wracked by mutiny after three horrific years of trench warfare, were at the breaking point. The last hope for Allied victory was the United States. It had entered the war in April 1917, and its troops began arriving in France later that year.
The American forces were hastily trained for the demands of total warfare in the European model, and for the most part were equipped with a hodge-podge of weapons supplied by their allies. The question on both sides of the trenches was not if the growing number of American units would fight, but rather how well? Only combat would answer that question. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenberg and Gen. Erich Ludendorff of Germany were determined to shatter Allied resolve and achieve victory with an offensive launched before the full weight of the U.S. Army could be felt.
On May 27, 1918, specially trained “shock units” led a three-pronged offensive that smashed into the British and French lines. At Aisne, the French lines bent, then broke. In less than two days, the German army was at the Marne River at Chateau Thierry. Once again, the German army had victory within its grasp, and once again, the road to Paris, about 50 miles away, was wide open. In 1914, France, and the Allied cause, was saved by a sudden influx of troops delivered to the front by Parisian taxis – the “Miracle of the Marne.”
This time France had no miracles of her own remaining. Allied Commander-in-Chief Gen. Ferdinand Foch turned to Gen. John Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force. Previously, Pershing had resisted releasing units piecemeal to reinforce depleted British and French divisions. He stated that when Americans fought, they would do so as a unified army.
But Pershing recognized that the present crisis overrode national considerations and temporarily released his five divisions to Foch’s command. The American 2nd Division, containing the 4th, 5th, and 6th Marine Brigades, was assigned to Gen. Joseph Degoutte’s French 6th Army, located along the Marne Front. Not since the Civil War had American troops been involved in a conflict of such magnitude. And it had been more than 100 years, at the battles of Bladensburg and New Orleans during the War of 1812, since the Marine Corps had faced an armed foe at the professional level as it did now against the 461st Imperial German Infantry regiment.
Though Pershing, an Army general, harbored little love for the Marines, he did not allow service parochialism to blind him to the Marines’ capability. Shortly after Ludendorff’s offensive began, when the 4th Marine Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Charles Doyen, had to return to the States due to a terminal illness, Pershing assigned command of the brigade to his chief of staff, Army Brig. Gen. James Harbord, telling him, “Young man, I’m giving you the best brigade in France – if anything goes wrong, I’ll know whom to blame.”
It was not without some concern that Harbord assumed his new command. He was replacing a respected and loved commander; he was a National Guard cavalry officer, a temporary brigadier general; and his two regimental commanders were Col. Albertus Catlin and Col. Wendell “Whispering Buck” Neville, both recipients of the Medal of Honor. He worked hard at his new command and earned the respect of the Marines. Harbord would retire a major general and later write of his experience, “They never failed me. I look back on my service with the Marines Brigade with more pride and satisfaction than on any other equal period in my long Army career.”
The fighting ended, exhausted and seriously depleted ranks of the 6th Marines gather outside Belleau Wood before moving on.
(USMC History and Museums Division)
The 4th Marine Brigade was ordered to shore up defenses and assume a blocking position north of the important east-west Paris- Metz highway. They dug into position along a line just above the village of Lucy-Le-Bocage. Immediately in front of the Marine line was a large wheat field, and beyond that was a mile square game preserve. The French called it Bois de Belleau. To the Marines and America, it would be immortalized as Belleau Wood. The Marines had barely gotten into position, digging shallow individual trenches they called “foxholes,” when the German army renewed its offensive on June 2. Demoralized French troops in the forest began falling back. One French officer, as he passed through the Marine lines, advised the Americans to join in the retreat. Capt. Lloyd Williams responded, “Retreat, hell! We just got here!” The French officer and the other French troops continued on. Soon the Marines were alone.
The rest of the day and the following morning were quiet. The heat of the early June sun parched the throats of the Marines as they waited for the enemy to appear. Finally, in the early afternoon, movement was seen at the southern edge of the forest, and the distinct shapes of German soldiers in their feldgrau began to emerge. Long line after long line of soldiers, slightly crouched and weapons low, began trotting through the ripening wheat. Veteran Marines of the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Veracruz Expedition lay side by side with unblooded men whose memories of the profane injunctions of their drill instructors were still fresh. The Germans confidently advanced. What they did not know was that no longer before them was a demoralized French foe. Instead, they were marching toward a fresh enemy with high morale that took pride in training its men in how to shoot. The Germans also did not realize they were already within range of the Marines’ shoulder arm, the .30-06 Springfield M1903 rifle.
The accepted combat range of rifles during World War I was a maximum of 250 yards. The Springfield ’03 was rated with an effective range of 600 yards. In the hands of an expert marksman, it could be deadly at ranges well beyond that. The line of gray-clad troops advancing through an open field presented the Marines with a shooting gallery. At 800 yards, the order was given, and sustained fire commenced. German soldiers spun, collapsed, and fell as bullets from the first volley tore into them. The German advance wavered, then astonished survivors fell to the ground seeking cover. Their officers ran through their ranks, shouting for them to get up and continue the advance. The troops rose and were hit with another volley fired at long range. A third attempt to advance was met by a third deadly volley that was also accompanied by machine gun fire. The stunned survivors retreated into the woods to take up defensive positions and plan their next move.
The commander of the German 28th Division facing opposite the American 2nd Division confidently told his men, “We are not fighting for ground – for this ridge or that hill. It will be decided here whether or not the American Army will be equal to our own troops.” It was a prescient statement. Unfortunately, for him, not in the way he expected.
After receiving news that the German attack had been blunted at Belleau Wood, Degoutte ordered the 2nd Division to counterattack the following day, June 6. The attack began with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines launching a dawn attack on the German-held Hill 142 on the division’s left flank. German machine guns raked the Marine ranks during the half-mile advance. The Marines succeeded in capturing the hill at about noon. But doing so had cost the battalion 410 casualties. It was a foretaste of what was to come.
Meanwhile, two battalions of the 6th Marines and one battalion of the 5th Marines were preparing for the main attack on Belleau Wood. The attack was launched at 5 p.m., and the Marines advanced in a formation and at a fast pace taught by the veteran French officers who had rounded out their training shortly after the Marines arrived in France. It was the same formation that had doomed thousands of French poilus during the disastrous offensives of 1914 and 1915. It achieved the same results on the Marines. As the Marines began crossing the battle-scarred wheat field, it was the German machine gunners’ turn. The lead troops were quickly cut down. Surviving Marines dove for the ground and continued the advance crawling on all fours, pausing and, like pop-up targets, taking aim and quickly firing back before dropping down for cover in the wheat stalks. Even so, the advance slowed dangerously, with the German machine gun fire continuing seemingly unabated. It appeared that the attack would fail just 50 yards before the Marines reached the German lines.
Reporter Floyd Gibbons was with the Marines during the attack and lay terrified among the dead and wounded in the wheat field. Not far from him was Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Daly, a double Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Boxer Rebellion and Haiti. In a report he later filed, Gibbons wrote, “The sergeant swung his bayoneted rifle over his head with a forward sweep, yelling at his men, ‘Come on, you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever?'” The Marines with him stood up, and with a roar, charged. By the end of the day, the first line of German defenders was overrun and taken. But the cost of the attack was severe. On that day, the 4th Marine Brigade had suffered 1,087 casualties, making it the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history up to that point. More Marines had fallen on June 6, 1918, than in the entire 143-year history of the Marine Corps.
The Battle for Belleau Wood would continue to almost the end of June and was fought in a series of savage actions. It was during this battle that, according to legend, the 461st Imperial German Infantry gave the Marines the nickname “Teufelhunden” – “Devil Dogs.” Finally, on June 26, Maj. Maurice Shearer of the 5th Marines sent to headquarters the message: “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.”
Convinced that the Marines had saved Paris, the French government renamed the game preserve Bois de la Brigade de Marine. And, more importantly, this action, as well as American success at Cantigny and Ch’teau-Thierry, Pershing later wrote, “… gave an indication of what trained American troops would do.” But the German high command was not finished. A final German offensive was launched on July 15. This time, the 2nd Division and its Marines joined the French XX Corps and repulsed the German attack at Soissons, sustaining another 2,000 casualties. When the German offensive was stopped, the initiative shifted to the Allies. They responded with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
On July 29, 1918, Pershing made Gen. John A. Lejeune commander of the 2nd Division. His first assignment was to reduce the dangerous German salient at St. Mihiel. After four days of fierce fighting by the combined Marine and Army units, the salient was eliminated. The 2nd Division then was assigned offensive operations in support of the French Fourth Army, commanded by Gen. Henri Gourand. But German defenses along the Meuse River succeeded in slowing the French advance until it was stopped before Blanc Mont, or White Mountain, a ridge that dominated the region for miles. The Germans had held Blanc Mont since 1914 and had heavily fortified the ridge. To restart his stalled attack, Gourand wanted Lejeune to break up his division and disperse it into depleted French units. Lejeune’s reaction was quick and hot. Following Pershing’s example, he was not about to have his division broken up, particularly since there was no dire crisis now confronting the Allies. The Marine general told Gourand, “Keep the division intact and let us take [Blanc Mont].”
U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood (1918) by Georges Scott.
Gourand looked at Lejeune skeptically, then nodded his assent. Lejeune’s plan was to assault the German position with lead attacks from both flanks and, when they had closed to pinch out and isolate the center, the rest of his troops would advance and overwhelm the defenders. In what Pershing would later call “a brilliant maneuver against heavy machine gun resistance,” the attack kicked off on Oct. 3 with a short, five-minute artillery barrage of 200 guns. As soon as the cannon fire stopped, the 3rd Infantry Brigade launched its attack on the German right flank. Simultaneously, the 4th Marine Brigade attacked the German left. This was followed by an advance by the 6th Marines. Supporting the overall attack were French tanks. By noon, the 6th Marines had seized the crest and were clearing the heights. Additional troops from the 5th Marines moved up to add overwhelming power to the 2nd Division’s punch. On the left flank was a heavily fortified position known as the Essen Hook that was assigned to French units who were temporarily held in reserve. As the battle progressed, the French troops were released to seize the Essen Hook. When the French proved unable to do so, a company of Marines from the 5th Regiment led by Capt. Leroy P. Hunt was ordered to help. Hunt’s company succeeded in throwing out the Germans, and the Marines then handed over the Essen Hook to the French. The Germans returned and quickly overwhelmed the French defenders at Essen Hook, whereupon the 5th Regiment was forced to drive the Germans out a second time. This time they secured the position for good. When the day was over, Blanc Mont was in the hands of the 2nd Division.
Lejeune followed up the capture of Blanc Mont with an advance on the nearby village of St. Etienne on Oct. 4. The 5th Marines, who were leading the attack, literally ran into the Germans’ counterattack designed to retake Blanc Mont. Unfortunately, the Marines’ advance in the offensive had outpaced the French units beside them, causing them to form a salient that left them exposed to enemy fire from both flanks as well as their front. Despite the murderous fire falling on them, the Marines grimly kept the pressure on. After four days of intense fighting in which the Marines suffered more than 2,500 casualties, including the seemingly indestructible Daly, who was wounded, St. Etienne was liberated and, by Oct. 10, the Germans were in full retreat.
Not long after the battle, the grateful French government awarded the 5th and 6th Marines and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion their third citation of the Croix de Guerre for gallantry. As a result, the members of those outfits were now entitled to wear the scarlet and green fourragère. Field Marshal Henri Petain, the hero of Verdun, would add his own accolade, stating that, “The taking of Blanc Mont Ridge is the greatest single achievement in the 1918 campaign.”
Of the Marine Corps contribution in World War I, Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.) wrote in his book, A Fellowship of Valor, “Less than 32,000 Marines served in France. More than 12,000 of those given the opportunity to fight in France became casualties; 3,284 died. The survivors had given their country and their Corps a legacy of courage, esprit, and ferocity which would remain the standard of combat excellence for the remainder of the violent century.”
This article originally appeared on Argunners. Follow @ArgunnersMag on Twitter.
The M1A2 Abrams is arguably one of the best (if not the best) tank systems in the world today. It’s the main battle tank of the United States, along with several of its allies — including Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom deployed a number of the tanks in its intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is not having the success they expected to have.
It’s been three long years for the Saudi military and the coalition it’s leading to take on Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Almost as soon as the Saudi “intervention” (aka “invasion”) of Yemen began, the Kingdom started asking U.S.-based contractor General Dynamics for upgrades to the tank. They also ordered replacements.
A quick YouTube search will show you why.
Houthi rebels posted a lot of these videos showing the M1A2 getting wrecked by simple anti-tank weapons. In the videos above, that weapon is Tosun anti-tank guided missiles, an Iranian-built variant of a the Soviet 9M113 Konkurs ATGM, which uses a trailing wire system to guide the projectile.
At just 32 pounds, this Iranian ATGM can hit a Saudi M1A2 from two miles away. The current M1A2 defense system can’t really defend against this simple kind of attack. Reactive armor can help and there are M1 upgrades that could possibly further help, but complete, reliable 360-degree protection doesn’t exist in this family of tanks.
But don’t think because it’s not working out for the Saudis, the same fate would await American tank crews.
For starters, Americans won’t just abandon their tank and bolt at the first sign of trouble.
The thing is that there’s nothing wrong with the tanks themselves. They could stand the upgrade package given to U.S. M1 tanks, maybe some of that depleted uranium armor, or maybe a tank protection system like the one Israel developed for its tankers. The problem Saudi Arabia has with its tanks is how they’re being used.
In the above videos, you could see tanks being destroyed that were completely alone. They were left out in the open with no infantry support. The minimal amount of 360 protection a crew can give themselves is to actually look around. We may never know what the crew was doing in there but what they weren’t doing was being aware of their surroundings.
So of course some Houthis are going to come up and shoot them with an anti-tank missile.
Maybe leaving your bright red Igloo cooler on the side of it isn’t a great idea either. Just throwing that out there.
In January 2008, the Army began the process of removing drill sergeants from Advanced Individual Training, and replacing them with platoon sergeants. One decade later, the reverse transition has begun with the first wave of noncommissioned officers graduating March 8, 2018, from a 10-day conversion course qualifying them to wear the drill sergeant identification badge.
In the past, noncommissioned officers who trained to be AIT platoon sergeants attended the first six weeks of the nine-week long drill sergeant school before splitting off to learn other things, such as attending the master resilience course.
According to officials, although AIT platoon sergeants proved effective and provided “ready Soldiers for the nation,” the return of drill sergeants is expected to “improve the standards and discipline” of new Soldiers.
Making the transition is mandatory for those who have graduated from the AIT platoon sergeant course on or after Jan. 21, 2017. Platoon sergeants who have between 13 to 18 months of time can volunteer to extend for an additional year to become eligible.
Master Sgt. Christopher Foley, 1st Engineer Brigade operations sergeant major, said the brigade has 27 platoon sergeants at installations across the country, 15 of which are here at Fort Leonard Wood. “(As a whole,) 15 must attend training; six are in the option window, and six do not have enough time remaining,” Foley said. “Two within that option window have already volunteered and will incur a third year of duty.”
(U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)
Foley added that the brigade has already had three of their Fort Leonard Wood platoon sergeants attend the course, making the transition to drill sergeant. The brigade plans to have all eligible platoon sergeants converted by July 2018.
Staff Sgt. Ericka Kong-Martinez with Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, is one of those recent graduates. She has spent one year as a platoon sergeant and, after volunteering to extend for a year, will spend the next two as a drill sergeant.
“It’s a good opportunity to see the difference between both roles,” Kong-Martinez said. “Now I see the difference in trainees’ reactions from a platoon sergeant to an actual drill sergeant. They react a lot faster when a drill sergeant addresses them.”
She added, “the discipline level is higher. It shouldn’t be, but it is.”
Here, the 3rd Chemical and 14th Military Police brigades, together, have approximately 38 platoon sergeants that will also transition or be replaced.
In the end, approximately 600 current platoon sergeants across the Army will make the conversion to drill sergeant. All are expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year.
If you’re one of the 44 million Americans who have been vaccinated, you can celebrate with a donut, as Krispy Kreme announced that it will be giving a free glazed donut to anyone who comes in with a vaccination card.
The free donut initiative is actually extremely generous. The free donuts are not just a one-time offer. The deal lasts through 2021 and there are no limits to the number of donuts vaccinated people can enjoy. In fact, if you want to, you could grab a free Krispy Kreme donut every day for the rest of the year as long as you bring your vaccination card.
Krispy Kreme is also planning on delivering some well-earned free donuts to support workers and volunteers at vaccination sites across the country over the next few weeks.
“We all want to get COVID-19 behind us as fast as possible and we want to support everyone doing their part to make the country safe by getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to them,” the donut chain said in a release.
And that’s not all, the popular donut company is giving employees up to four hours of vacation time in order to get vaccinated, which is similar to what companies like Target and Dollar General are doing for employees as well. Other chains, such as Petco and Kroger, are offering cash or gift cards to employees who show proof of vaccination.
Skena did make it clear that Krispy Kreme employees would not be required to get vaccinated, saying that it’s a “personal choice” but that the company wants “to encourage and make sure nothing is standing in the way” of employees getting the vaccine.
“I hope that other brands will see and choose to do something similar,” Skena said.
Following their meeting in Helsinki, Donald Trump hailed Vladimir Putin as a potential partner in Syria, who can provide humanitarian relief and preserve Israeli security. But if the United States hopes to deny Iran “open season to the Mediterranean,” as the President previously said, Russia is anything but an ally. Putin has no interest in pushing out the Iranian forces that defend the Assad regime by taking heavy casualties on the ground while Russia fights mainly from the air. Rather, the most recent offensive by pro-regime forces — a sprint towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders — demonstrates that Russia enables Iranian operations in Syria.
In late June 2018, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on Deraa, a flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed November 2017. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.
Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, 2018, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for Deraa province.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tank in 2012 in Tehran.
Two Iranian-aligned militant groups comprised of Iraqi Shias, Liwa Abu al Fadl al Abbas (LAFA) and Liwa Zulfiqar, have also participated in the offensive. LAFA was one of the original foreign Shia militias to deploy to Syria in 2012, ostensibly to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in Damascus, a major Shiite religious site. Since then, however, the group has integrated into the Syrian Republican Guard, even to the point where it openly identifies as a Republican Guard unit. LAFA’s trajectory illustrates how forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran.
Since the current offensive began, LAFA has posted numerous photos and videos on its Facebook page showing its men alongside regime troops in Deraa. Its leader, Abu Ajeeb, has also been pictured with Syrian military officers in several of the photos. Opposition sources report that a LAFA commander met with Russian military officers in Deraa.
Liwa Zulfiqar has also confirmed its involvement in the offensive, as well as its integration into the regime’s military. The militia, which has been fighting alongside Syrian regime troops since 2013, posted several photos from the town of Busra al Harir in which it asserted it was participating in the offensive. The militia’s leader, Haidar al Jabouri, appeared in a video shot inside the Syrian 4th Division’s military operations command room, demonstrating Zulfiqar’s integration into the Syrian command structure.
Reports have also suggested that other militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have been taking part in the offensive, sometimes disguised as Syrian troops. In late June 2018, the Washington Postbriefly noted Hezbollah’s participation. Quoting an official in Damascus, Reuters reported that “Hezbollah is a fundamental participant in planning and directing this battle.” Another pro-regime source reportedly confirmed the use of Syrian military uniforms by Hezbollah and other militias to the wire service.
Hizbollah flag in Syria.
It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. On June 24, 2018, Russian warplanes conducted at least twenty strikes on Busra al Harir, spurring on a stalled regime offensive. Within two days, Liwa Zulfiqar announced its participation in operations there. On July 4, 2018, Russia hit Saida and Tafas, supporting offensives involving Zulfiqar and LAFA, respectively. Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.
Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.
Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest and ability to serve as a partner in Syria. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes is designed to fortify the regime, not rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.
The global death toll from the coronavirus has neared 27,000 with more than 591,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
Ukraine says it has confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases as the country begins to impose new restrictions at its borders in the battle to contain the effects of the global pandemic.
The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.
The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.
As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Another reported death on March 27 increased the total to four.
According to Moscow’s coronavirus-response headquarters, the 56-year-old woman who died on March 27 was also suffering from cancer and had one lung removed during an earlier operation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.
“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.
“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.
He gave no further details.
As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.
Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.
In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.
The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.
In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.
The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.
The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.
According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.
Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.
Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.
Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.
The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.
Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.
Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.
On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.
“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said.
State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.
President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.
Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.
Om March 27, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the United States to release Iranians held in U.S. jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic.
The minister referred to a report by the Guardian newspaper about an Iranian science professor who it said remained jailed by U.S. immigration authorities after being acquitted in November 2019 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work.
The professor, Sirous Asgari, complained that conditions in detention were “filthy and overcrowded” and that officials were “doing little” to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Guardian.
Rights activists have accused Iranian authorities of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge dismissed by Tehran.
Three people in Serbia have been sentenced to jail for violating a self-isolation order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The two- to three-year sentences were handed down during a video court session, a first in the Balkan country. The session was conducted remotely to protect employees and defendants from potential exposure to the coronavirus.
One of the defendants was sentenced to three years in prison — the maximum — in the eastern town Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian justice source confirmed to RFE/RL. The others were sentenced at a court in the city of Pozarevac to two and 2 1/2 years.
Dragana Jevremovic-Todorovic, a judge and spokeswoman for the court in Pozarevac, told RFE/RL that the two people convicted there had been charged with a criminal offense of noncompliance with health regulations.
“They violated the measure of self-isolation when they came from abroad. One arrived in Serbia on March 14, the other on March 17, both from the Hungarian border crossing,” she said.
“They were informed that they had been given a measure of self-isolation and a restraining order, which they did not respect. The measure was to last 14 days, and they violated it before the deadline,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
“By violating self-isolation, they have created a danger to human health, as this can spread the infectious disease,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
The Ministry of Justice on March 26 sent a memo to courts that conduct proceedings against people who violate self-isolation measures, allowing them to hold trials remotely using Internet-enabled computers, cameras, and microphones.
The judiciary noted that the first-time video judgments were not final, but the defendants remain in custody while they await trial.
According to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Sanctions Directorate, 111 people are in custody at detention facilities in three Serbian cities – Pirot, Vrsac, and Pozarevac — on suspicion of violating the emergency public-health order.
Serbia has recorded 528 coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Restrictive measures introduced by Belgrade include a ban on people over age 65 leaving their homes and a 12-hour overnight curfew enforced by police.
Meanwhile, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic pledged on March 27 to donate 1 million euros (id=”listicle-2645588735″.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for health workers in Serbia.
“Unfortunately, more and more people are getting infected every day,” Djokovic told Serbian media.
The world men’s No. 1 player, who was in top form before the pandemic interrupted the current season, thanked medical staff around the world for their efforts.
Georgia’s government has canceled a id=”listicle-2645588735″.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.
The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.
Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.
Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.
Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.
In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.
Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.
She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.
“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”
Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.
Azerbaijan has tightened its quarantine rules from March 29 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The movement of vehicles between regions and cities across the country will be banned, with some exceptions, including ambulances, social services, and agricultural vehicles, the government said on March 27.
Baku’s subway system will operate only five hours a day.
Restaurants, cafes, tea houses, and shops — except supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies — will remain closed.
Access to parks, boulevards, and other recreation areas will be restricted.
The South Caucasus country has reported 165 coronavirus cases, with three deaths. Officials say 15 patients have recovered.
In addition, more than 3,000 people remain in quarantine.
On March 26, Azerbaijani authorities extended holidays related to Persian New Year celebrations until April 4, from a previous end date of March 29.
Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.
In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.
He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.
Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.
Ten infected people have died.
Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.
Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.
A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.
The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.
Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.
In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.
As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.
Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.
All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.
Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.
Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.
Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.
Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.
New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.
The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.
Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.
The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.
Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.
(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)
“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.
Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.
“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”
In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.
The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.
Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.
Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.
Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)
“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.
Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”
Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.
“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”
“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.
Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.