After an intense four-day manhunt, authorities tracked down the two suspects (brothers) who they believed were behind the deadly terrorist attack (one died during a shootout) that shocked the world.
Fast-forward to four years later and something special happened. Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez, a Marine who lost his left leg during an IED attack in Afghanistan, completed the 26.2-mile run while holding an American flag signed by many service members he was deployed with.
Although Sanchez’s injuries sidelined him, he battled his way back to not only strengthen his mind but his body.
After gaining national attention for the patriotic act, this decorated warrior has become an instant inspiration to those with and without physical disabilities.
On May 25, 1953, the Army fired its first Atomic cannon, setting off a 15-kiloton explosion during the Operation Upshot-Knothole test series at the Nevada National Security Site.
The M65 “Atomic Annie” packed 110-pounds of weapons-grade uranium into an 803 pound artillery shell, allowing artillerymen to create Hiroshima-sized explosions in 30 minutes from when they stopped their truck to when they were rolling away again.
On May 25, the Army was keen to see whether its atomic cannons worked as advertised and sent a crew to Frenchman Flats, Nevada, to test it out. They drove their 84-foot long artillery piece to the site and aimed its 28.5-foot barrel towards the target area.
The Army positioned a camera to catch both the firing of the weapon and the detonation of the warhead in the same shot. The round took only 19 seconds to travel 6.25 miles to the target, which was destroyed in a massive mushroom cloud. The projectile detonated 524 feet above Frenchman Flat and is the only nuclear device ever fired from a cannon.
The M65 was immediately sent into service in Germany and South Korea where it would act as a deterrent to Communist invasion.
Fortunately, it was never used.
Twenty cannons were eventually made, but over the years, their value depreciated rapidly. The cannons were heavy and confined to well-paved roads. Quick development of atomic weapons in smaller calibers eventually made the weapon obsolete. Today, four cannons still exist, including Atomic Annie at Fort Sill.
A zombie outbreak in pop culture usually starts in the United Kingdom or the United States. However, western countries do not keep quiet for long when it come to a worldwide threat. Communist countries have time and again chosen to suppress information until it is no longer deniable. In 1986, when the Chernobyl disaster happened, the Soviet Union refused to acknowledge a problem until other countries had irrefutable proof something was wrong.
China continues this motif of lies and propaganda to save face when they mess up. In Chinese culture, losing face is worse than the actual mistake. Worse yet is owning up to it because it is seen a sign of weakness.
China would suppress news of an out break
By refusing to admit the truth of the zombie outbreak to the world, the Communist Chinese government aided its spread due to misinformation about what was actually happening.
Zombiepedia, World War Z by Max Brooks
Digging deeper into the cultural phenomena of losing face, the Chinese people, not just the government, would actively deny they are powerless. The country as a whole would lose face if the world called out the CCP when caught in a lie. They would rather invent a scenario where the cause of the outbreak was natural rather than criminal negligence. The Chinese not knowing how the virus is spreading would be another losing face situation. To be seen as ignorant of that knowledge is shameful in Chinese culture.
While the Chinese government is squabbling over how to present the situation on the world stage, the Z virus would spread exponentially. China’s population is around 1.4 billion people – that’s a lot of zombies. In 2019 Chinese “authorities deliberately sacrificed health workers to maintain their lies.” We know what the first thing the CCP would do if there was a zombie virus: lie.
They would use a zombie vaccine as leverage
The civilized world would put politics aside and band together to achieve a common goal. Yet, the Chinese government would use the zombie outbreak as an excuse to profit from the vaccines, blackmail countries to do their bidding and deny them life saving medicine. Once they can no longer deny that there is a problem, they will do everything in their power to make the rest of the world suffer the consequences.
A weaponized Z virus
China’s bioweapons ambitions are no secret. They actively pursue diseases, then engineer deadlier versions. Regardless of whether a zombie virus was manmade or developed in a lab, the cat is out of the bag. Conveniently, the CCP has been trying to cleanse China of undesirables. All they would have to do is do nothing, as the wanton destruction of the Communist Zombies eats away their political enemies.
Instead of China having a Resident Evil Umbrella Corporation-like deliberate response to a zombie outbreak, they would most likely fall flat on their faces. The politicians at the top would continue their caricature-like information suppression tactics. The poor and disenfranchised would suffer the most. Eventually, the rest of the world would have to clean up their mess like always. When you deal with a problem when it’s small, it stays small. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. The Communists will always deny, deflect and lie until it’s too late. The zombie apocalypse is most likely to start in China, not because of deliberate evil, but because of President Winnie the Pooh’s hubris.
Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.
“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the
Small Arms Review.
Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.
This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:
In today’s military, seniority by rank is limited to four-star generals and admirals. And while public law still allows for five-star generals, one hasn’t been appointed since Omar Bradley held the rank in 1950.
Yet, six-star general is a rank that (technically) exists.
Two men have held higher ranks in the Armed Forces of the United States. The latest was General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, whose contributions to service were awarded with the title General of the Armies of the United States, complete with gold four-star insignia. His rank was higher than that of other four star generals due to an act of Congress that mandated that he remain preeminent above all personnel until his death in 1948.
Although I hope the act of Congress didn’t specify the year.
The other is the father of America, who wore only two stars in his lifetime, President George Washington. The Continental Congress commissioned Washington as a Major General in 1775. As Commander-In-Chief, he outranked all others fielded by Congress. After his Presidency, his successor, John Adams, promoted him to Lieutenant General and he would be on the Army rolls as Lt. Gen. Washington in perpetuity, outranked by every four- and five-star general who came after him.
Toward the end of World War II, Congress considered promoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur, already a five-star general, to General of the Armies, on the same level as Pershing. The Army Institute of Heraldry even designed an insignia for this rank which included six stars.
But as the years went on and the U.S. came closer to its bicentennial birthday, the idea that someone could outrank George Washington began to bother some in government, including President Gerald Ford. In 1976, Ford would sign a bill which promoted Washington to stand “above all grades of the Army, past or present.”
The text of the bill reads:
“Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That… The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”
News reports at the time referred to his promotion as a six-star general’s rank (though there is no mention of the insignia he would wear).
House Representative Lucien Nedzl of Michigan thought the rank was unnecessary, saying “it’s like the Pope offering to make Christ a Cardinal.”
US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.
The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.
“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.
The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.
“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.
US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.
That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.
On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.
On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.
“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”
The same press release details the badge’s symbols:
The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.
MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.
The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.
Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.
In the 1960s, California highway planners were figuring out how to bypass Route 66 with a new alignment of Interstate 40. Their problem was a mountain range in the Bristols. Their solution was nuclear bombs.
Named Operation Carryall, California planned to use 22 nuclear devices to level the mountain range. The Atomic Energy Commission’s 1963 report to Congress detailed the plan. 11 miles north of the community of Amboy, a tourist destination along Route 66, a blast path would be laid through the Bristols. Engineers proposed boring 22 holes to bury the nukes along 10,940 feet of mountainside. Each hole would be 36 inches wide, 343 to 783 feet deep, and lined with corrugated metal.
The yields of the individual nukes ranged from 20 to 200 kilotons of TNT with a combined yield of 1,730 kilotons. Fat Man, the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, had a yield of 21 kilotons. Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, had a yield of 15 kilotons. Carryall called for an additional 100-kiloton device be detonated nearby. This explosion would create a drainage basin and prevent flash floods from the Orange Blossom Wash. At least the engineers were concerned with flooding. The planned blast would displace an estimated 68 million tons of earth. It would create a canyon with a maximum depth of about 350 feet through which two rail lines and eight lanes of traffic could be built.
Carryall and its nuclear detonations was scheduled for 1966 with the construction of I-40 beginning the following year. One might think that the resulting blast, nuclear fallout, and inevitable radioactive dust storm would have sunk the project quickly. Rather, Carryall was scrubbed due to the inability to run two test blasts before the main project could begin.
In the end, California highway officials grew impatient with the delays in the nuclear plan. Instead, the new highway was built through the Mojave Desert by traditional, non-nuclear, means. By 1973, I-40 linked Barstow and Needles. Thanks to the failure of Carryall, the desert remains radiation free.
In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).
But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of the process, Vets Advocacy is looking for the veteran community to voice how they’d like to see VA services provided.
“This confluence of events is unique and something that must not be missed,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “And this is more than a local issue in Los Angeles. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our country to get it right.”
Sherin calls the VA “a sacred agency” and says while the neglect and mismanagement over the years are real, he wants to focus on the possibilities and hope. “The lawsuit is settled,” he said. “We have a VA secretary who’s a change agent and very customer oriented. Now we need the vet’s voice to drive the outcome.”
Vets Advocacy has created a website, www.vatherightway.org, where veterans can find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large.
The campus is home to a chapel that has fallen into disrepair, an executive 9-hole golf course that could use a face lift, numerous buildings that need to be rehab’d, and even a theater where rock legends The Doors once performed. All of this spell potential to Sherin who envisions veterans employment workshops (including those catering to the career fields surrounding the entertainment industry), top-notch recreation facilities, and, of course, state-of-the-art health resources.
“The masterplan is an important first step in a much longer process to realize a 21st Century VA campus,” Sherin said. “With veteran participation in taking the survey and attending town hall events around LA we’ll be able to ensure we’re headed in the right direction.”
The Marine Corps is solving the problem of requiring pull-ups for women by adding a push-ups option for all troops on the physical fitness test, Military.com has learned.
On Friday, the Corps rolled out a series of sweeping changes to the PFT, combat fitness test, and body fat standards — the result of a review of existing policies that began last November. The new fitness standards go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, officials said, and the body composition standards take effect immediately.
New pull-up policy
Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of the flexed-arm hang as an alternative to pull-ups for women on the PFT. Instead, both men and women will be able to opt for push-ups instead — an exercise that was not previously part of the test. To encourage troops to do the more demanding exercise, the new standards limit the number of points available to those who choose the push-ups option. While women can achieve the maximum 100 points for completing between seven and ten pull-ups, and men can meet their max at between 20 and 23 reps depending on age, the push-ups scoring chart maxes out at just 70 points.
Most female Marines will have to complete between 40 and 50 push-ups to earn those 70 points, while most men will have to do between 70 and 80.
“Push-ups become an option on the PFT, but Marines are incentivized toward pull-ups, as these are a better test of functional, dynamic upper body strength and correlate stronger to physically demanding tasks,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in an administrative message to the Corps released Friday. “Push-ups are also a valid exercise and good test; however maximum points can only be earned by executing pull-ups.”
Taken together, Neller said the changes to the PFT were the most significant updates to the program since 1972.
The hybrid pull-up option is the Marines’ solution to a four-year conundrum of how to promote pull-ups for all Marines without making it impossible for women to succeed. In 2012, the Corps announced it was doing away with the female flexed-arm hang in favor of pull-ups, with a minimum of three. Those plans were delayed multiple times, and in 2014, Marine officials admitted that half of women tested in boot camp couldn’t meet the three-pull-up minimum.
Brian McGuire, the deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com that push-ups, like pull-ups, could be completed in the field. But, he said, the pull-up is a more functional test and requires individuals to overcome their entire body weight, while push-ups only require them to overcome 75 to 80 percent of their body weight. But even with its limitations, the push-up is superior to the flexed-arm hang, he said.
“The flexed-arm hang, in many studies, has been shown to be an inadequate test of upper body strength,” McGuire said.
The high number of pull-up repetitions required of women in the new scoring standards reveal an optimism about how training will help them improve. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps promoted a training program piloted by Marine Maj. Misty Posey that promised to use strength and repetition pyramids to get female Marines from “zero to twenty-plus.”
The female pull-ups scoring chart maxes at 10 reps for women between the ages of 26 and 30, though most women will have to do at least seven reps to max their score.
Notably, all of the new standards will keep in place a gender-normed scoring system, which scores men and women differently on the same exercises in acknowledgment of different physical ability thresholds. While the Marine Corps introduced gender-neutral minimum standards for entry into an array of ground combat jobs last fall, McGuire said gender-neutral physical fitness standards for the Marine Corps were never ordered or considered.
Marines may also find themselves doing more repetitions than in previous years to max out their score. The new scoring charts divide Marines into eight age groups, all with different maximum standards based on calculated peak ability. For men and women, the charts assume peak fitness between the ages of 21-25, and 26-30. While the previous PFT scoring chart maxed out pull-up repetitions at 20 for all ages, the new male scoring chart maxes at 23 for men between the ages of 21 and 35.
McGuire said the new age groups were added to meet Neller’s guidance to create relevant and challenging standards. Previously, the Marine Corps had only four fitness age groups, and they only dictated minimum allowable standards.
“We had a 27-39 age group, that’s 12 years,” McGuire said. “There’s some performance differences that happen during that time.”
For events requiring repetitions, such as pull-ups, crunches, and the ammunition can lift, McGuire and TECOM officials went to the fleet to gather real data on Marines’ performance thresholds. Between January and March, they tested around 2,000 Marines at bases around the Corps to chart maximum and median repetition levels. As a result, some repetition maximums are increasing significantly. Max reps for the two-minute ammunition can lift portion of the combat fitness test are going up for 91 to 120 for men and from 60 to 75 for women in some age categories.
For other events, such as running on the PFT and maneuver-to-contact on the CFT, TECOM looked at existing data from Marines who were taking the tests, creating scatter charts and graphs to determine the real distribution of times and scoring. As a result, some maximum times were increased and some minimum times shortened.
“By elevating the standard, which was based again on our data collection, this will allow for greater levels of distinction” among Marines taking the tests, McGuire said.
Male and female run times are getting relaxed for some of the new age categories. While run times for men continue to max at 18 minutes for three miles and for women at 21 minutes, the standards now allow more time for men and women over 40.
Younger Marines will have to work harder, though, to achieve their minimum run score. While the previous standards awarded points for a 33-minute run time for men, now male Marines under 30 will have to beat 28 minutes to pass the test.
Similarly, Marines in younger age groups will have to do more crunches — between 105 and 115, depending on age and gender — to max their score on the exercise. Previously, all charts maxed out at 100 crunches.
Under the new program, the Marines’ combat fitness test will continue to feature maneuver-under-fire, the ammunition can lift, and movement-to-contact. But all scores are now age-normed using the new eight age groups.
No body fat limits for PT studs
Beginning in January, Marines who can get close to maxing out their PFT and CFT scores, earning at least 285 points out of a possible 300, are exempt entirely from the hated tradition of body fat testing, Neller said in his message to the Corps. Those who can score at least 250 on the tests also receive a bonus: an extra allowable one percent body fat above existing standards.
However, he added, all Marines must still comply with the service’s professional appearance standards, ensuring troops look good in uniform.
For some, weight standards will become more relaxed, beginning immediately. The new standards increase weight maximums for women by five pounds across the board. A 5’3 female Marine who previously maxed out her weight at 141 pounds can now weigh 146 pounds and stay within regulations.
Neller told Military.com in February that female troops had told him they struggled to get stronger in order to complete pull-ups and work to enter newly opened ground combat jobs while staying within existing height and weight standards.
“Whether women go into ground combat or not, they’re telling me they’re going to do pullups for the fitness test. They’re going to get stronger. You get stronger, normally you gain weight, you get thicker,” Neller said then. ‘[Female Marines are] wanting to know, ‘Hey, Commandant, make up your mind. What are you going to have us do and if we do this, understand that I’ll do it, but it’s going to cause me probably to have a physical change, so don’t penalize me for doing what you’re telling me to do.'”
The decision to ease the female weight requirements was also supported by data from the Marines Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, an experiment that tested the ability of female Marines to succeed in the infantry alongside men.
“Females who were performing better at the integrated tasks were heavier,” McGuire said.
In his message Friday, Neller said Marines would also use more precise measuring devices to measure body fat. While the “rope-and-choke” circumference method of measuring body fat isn’t going away, McGuire said the Marine Corps would start using self-tensioning tape measures designed to yield more accurate measurements.
“It does eliminate some of the error,” he said.
Also taking effect immediately is a new waiver authority governing troops who max out their weight and body fat limits and are assigned to the body composition program, which can stall career progression and promotion. If Marines cannot get within standards after six months in the program, they risk expulsion from the Corps.
Now, Neller said, the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command will have the authority to sign off on a waiver exempting him or her from the BCP on account of satisfactory fitness and military appearance.
While the new weight standards are not retroactive, Marine officials said, troops who are currently assigned to the BCP or in the process of administrative discharge because they can’t meet standards will be re-evaluated immediately in light of the new policy. If they fall in line with the new regulations, they will be removed from the BCP right away.
“We will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure our standards continue to contribute to the effectiveness of our force and enhance our ability to respond when our Nation calls,” Neller said.
Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, the commander of TECOM, said the new physical standards “raised the bar” for Marines’ fitness.
“Marines today are stronger, faster and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate,” he said in a statement. “In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Chief Master Sgt. Alan Boling, Eighth Air Force command chief, visited Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 10-11, 2017. During his visit, Boling spoke with 5th Bomb Wing Airmen and visited facilities including the fire department, phase maintenance dock, bomb building facility, dining facility and parachute shop.
French Alphajets, followed by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and two F-22 Raptors, conduct a flyover while displaying blue, white and red contrails during the Military Parade on Bastille Day. An historic first, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor this year in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I and the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S.
A U.S. Army airborne paratrooper from the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry division prepares to jump out of the open troop door on a U.S. Air Force C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., July 12, 2017 in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017. The purpose of TS17 is to improve U.S.-Australian combat readiness, increase interoperability, maximize combined training opportunities and conduct maritime prepositioning and logistics operations in the Pacific. TS17 also demonstrates U.S. commitment to its key ally and the overarching security framework in the Indo Asian Pacific region.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John L. Gronski, deputy commanding general for Army National Guard, U.S. Army Europe, talks with Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, North Carolina National Guard during Getica Saber 17 on July 7, 2017 in Cincu, Romainia. Getica Saber 17 is a U.S-led fire support coordination exercise and combined arms live fire exercise that incorporates six Allied and partner nations with more than 4,000 Soldiers. Getica Saber 17 runs concurrent with Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise that spans across Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania with over 25,000 service members from 22 Allied and partner nations.
Sailors refuel an F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. FLEACT Yokosuka provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands and 26,000 military and civilian personnel.
Landing craft utility 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, offloads Marine equipment on a beach as a part of a large-scale amphibious assault training exercise during Talisman Saber 17. The landing craft utility 1666, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, launched from USS Green Bay (LPD 20) that enabled movement of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) forces and equipment ashore in order for the MEU to complete mission objectives in tandem with Australia counterparts.
A Marine, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), departs the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as part of a large-scale amphibious assault during Talisman Saber 17. The 31st MEU are working in tandem with Australian counterparts to train together in the framework of stability operations.
Four people are transferred from a sinking 30-foot recreational boat to Coast Guard Station Menemsha’s 47-foot Motor Life Boat off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard Thursday, July 17, 2017. The vessel was dewatered and returned to Menemsha Harbor under its own power.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Keola Marfil, honorary Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Bishop and Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Dickey walk to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a search and rescue drill at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, July 8 2017. Fulfilling Bishop’s wish to be a rescue swimmer, they hoisted a hiker and simulated CPR while transporting him to the air station.
Every generation has their war. And every war has its story.
Battle Cry of Freedom.
All Quiet on the Western Front.
Band of Brothers.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.
Black Hawk Down.
Now, thanks to Steve Miska, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan finally have their “required reading,” in Miska’s new book, Baghdad Underground Railroad: Saving American Allies in Iraq.
Since September 11, 2001, a multi-generational war has raged in the Middle East. Countless memoirs have been written, thousands of accounts have been told. But never before have we heard this story: the one of our Iraqi interpreters.
Baghdad Underground Railroad is riveting. During his second of three combat tours in Iraq, Miska led a team that established an underground railroad from Baghdad to Amman to the United States for dozens of foreign military interpreters who supported U.S. troops in-country. Since then, he has written extensively about the need to protect soft networks, and has acted as an advisor to several non-profits that aim to support and protect foreign military interpreters, including No One Left Behind and the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Baghdad Underground Railroad takes a soul-wrenching look at the solemn promise our government makes – to our men and women who serve, to their families, to our fallen: No one left behind. This isn’t just a saying; it’s an ethos, a commitment, a vow. No one left behind.
Unless you’re an Iraqi.
With bureaucracy at the helm, our allies – our interpreters – our lifelines over there are not just being left behind, they’re being executed at an alarming rate. With the impending troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, Miska’s story is more important than ever. His firsthand account of establishing the Underground Railroad is equal parts inspiring and courageous, fraught with devastation and frustration. But more than a war story, it’s a gripping, beautiful, human story. You’ll feel such anger at reading about the interpreter gunned down outside his home, simply for helping us. You’ll wipe tears at tender, endearing moments like the interpreter who finally made it to Kansas and got a job. Filled with gratitude, he wanted to treat his host to dinner, and insisted he take her and her son to somewhere nice – so he picked McDonald’s. These aren’t just strangers who helped us – these men and women are family.
Thousands of interpreters are still awaiting their Special Immigrant Visa, and layers upon layers of red tape have made getting the SIV nearly impossible. The issue is gaining national attention; just yesterday legislation was passed in the House by a 366-46 vote.
Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) introduced the Honoring Our Promises through Expedition [HOPE] for Afghan SIVs Act of 2021 in April. According to Crow’s website, this bipartisan legislation would waive the requirement for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to undergo a medical examination while in Afghanistan.
The Afghan SIV Program was created in 2009 to provide safety for Afghan interpreters, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Crow said in a press release. The application process has been plagued by delays since the program was established and faces severe backlogs, with wait times routinely stretching for years.
Since the Biden Administration announced their plans to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, Crow has called on the Administration to expedite this visa process, as SIV applicants and their families are increasingly under threat by the Taliban.
Among the bureaucratic hurdles facing SIV applicants, many have cited the medical examination requirement, which can cost thousands of dollars, as a serious delay in the process. There is currently only one facility in Kabul that conducts all immigrant visa examinations for the entire country, forcing applicants from the outer provinces to travel to Kabul in often dangerous circumstances.
“When I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I worked closely with local interpreters and contractors who were critical to our safety and success. Without their help, I may not be here today,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “The U.S. must honor our promises and protect our Afghan partners whose lives are now at risk by the Taliban. We can help expedite the SIV process by waiving the medical examination requirement in Afghanistan, which is cost prohibitive and difficult for many applicants to safely receive. The HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act is bipartisan, common-sense legislation that can help save lives.”
“When I deployed to Iraq, my unit was aided by local interpreters who knew their actions came at great cost to themselves and their families. Like them, our Afghan allies have been indispensable in our fight against terrorism. With the Administration’s deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan fast approaching, we cannot forget their sacrifices on our behalf. In many cases, it’s untenable for them to remain in their home country due to active death threats for helping America, and our interpreters and other local allies are in mortal danger,” said Congressman Brad Wenstrup. “I’m proud to join this legislation, which provides temporary flexibility to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program to make sure we don’t leave our friends behind.”
In addition to legislation passing, yesterday, Miska shared the stage with Washington Post Opinion Columnist David Ignatius and General David Petraeus (Ret.) to discuss U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militia and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. When asked about what the U.S. owes Afghan interpreters who helped Americans, Gen. Petraeus shared,
“We have a moral obligation to individuals who shared risk and hardship alongside our soldiers on the battlefield…With our forces leaving, and with the embassy already having drawn down its forces, and now in a covid lockdown, needless to say, there has not been much progress on the processing of the special immigrant visas in recent months….At that time (when he and former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker sent a letter to Sec. Blinken asking the Biden administration to accelerate issuing visas for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and others who assisted US service members), I didn’t necessarily support a big airlift, but it is looking as if to meet the policy decision the president has announced now, which is that we will not leave them behind, it’s not going to be business as usual. I don’t think normal process will accelerate sufficiently in the course of the next month or two so that we can get them to the United States with the visa that they have earned.”
Miska shared, “The plight of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters left behind by the United States remains one of the most significant human rights issues of the Global War on Terrorism, America’s longest, and ongoing, military conflicts.”
“Baghdad Underground Railroad is a sober reminder of the far-reaching human and national security consequences of abandoning U.S. allies in countries of conflict,” Miska explained. “Above all, it is an exploration of universal questions about hope, brotherhood, and belonging—questions that strike at the heart of who we are as a people and as a nation.”
On Friday March 5, 2021, General Austin “Scott” Miller marked 915 days as the head of the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan. He is the longest-serving commander of the war in Afghanistan. The previous commander, General John Nicholson, held the position for 914 days until the change of command on September 2, 2018.
Miller is no stranger to the harsh realities of combat. He graduated from West Point in 1983. After completing Ranger school, his first unit was the 82nd Airborne. After that, he became a platoon leader in A Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Miller went on to become an instructor at the Special Operations Division School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 1992, he passed selection and was accepted into the elite 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as Delta Force. His combat record includes Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Prior to assuming command of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Operation Resolute Support, Miller served as the commanding general of Joint Special Operations Command.
Just over a month after he took over in Afghanistan, Miller was taking rounds. On October 18, 2018, the bodyguard of a provincial Afghan governor opened fire during a meeting between Afghan officials and U.S. generals. The insider attack killed two high-ranking Afghans and wounded two Americans, including Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley, ORS commander in southern Afghanistan. Miller drew his sidearm, but was not wounded. Rather than evacuate under the protection of his security detail, he waited until the wounded were taken care of and left on the same helicopter as them.
Clearly, Miller is no armchair general. Despite his stars, he remains a warrior commander on the battlefield. This is also seen in his choice of weaponry. Most general officers are inclined to carry the standard-issue sidearm, the M17/M18 MHS which replaced the old M9. As a high-ranking officer with a security detail, it can be seen as unnecessary for a general to carry anything more. Miller, who was vindicated in the 2018 insider attack, believes otherwise.
The general is often seen carrying a kitted out handgun, rifle, or both. One such weapon is his .45 ACP 1911 handgun. A popular choice for elite units like Delta Force, Marine Force Recon, LAPD SWAT, and the FBI’s HRT, Miller was first issued a 1911 in 1992. According to Army spokesman Col. David Butler, the .45 on the general’s hip was issued as his assigned weapon in 2009. Where Miller’s 1911 all-steel, big-bore, old-school firepower, his other handgun of choice is modern perfection.
Glock pistols are quickly becoming the go-to pistol for elite military units like the Navy SEALs and MARSOC. The polymer-framed pistols have long-been the choice of law enforcement agencies, most notably the FBI. Although the Glock lost to Sig Sauer for the Army’s new standard-issue sidearm, it hasn’t stopped operators from carrying tricked out Glocks. Miller’s Glock has been seen outfitted with an extended magazine baseplate, a reflex red dot sight, and a compensator on its threaded barrel.
When it comes to personal security, General Miller doesn’t mess around. Although he turns 60 in May 2021, he shows no signs of slowing down. The general maintains his special forces roots and remains ready for a gunfight at any time.