On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.
Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.
Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.
Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.
This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.
Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:
While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.
The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.
The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.
Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:
We’ve all poked fun of the U.S. Coast Guard. We get it. They’re like the red-headed stepchild of the Armed Forces. The very mention of their existence is almost always met by other troops spouting off the same, “yeah, well, they’re not always DoD!” Once you put your jokes about them aside, however, you’ll realize that they’re every bit as badass as the next troop.
For instance, the Coast Guard maintains their very own specialized forces that are on par, in terms of training and mission capacity, with the rest of the SOCOM units. And this isn’t an exaggeration, considering the fact that they’re constantly training with the SEAL teams.
They’re called the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT.
If they walk like a duck, dress like a duck, and operate like a duck…
(U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Robert Nash)
The MSRT is the full-time counter-terrorism assault arm of maritime law enforcement. They’re tasked with being the first responders to terrorist situations that require boarding and securing hostile vessels — in all waters, both domestic and abroad.
Originally a part of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group — or DOG, before it was dissolved in 2013 — the MSRT remains the go-to team in responding to piracy the world over.
Just to throw it out there, aiming a rifle from one of these is a headache, but these guys have mastered the art.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
Each assault element is broken down into several teams. The Direct Action Section is the main group of vessel-boarding operators that are extensively trained in close-quarters combat. Then, the Precision Marksmen Observer Team provides rear support through the lens of a high-powered sniper rifle, which is often aimed from moving aircraft or boats. Finally, the Tactical Delivery Teams bring the rest of their MSRT comrades into the fold.
The teams also include personnel that are specifically trained in handling chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and high-yield explosive environments, mixing the talents of EOD and bomb squad units with CBRN capabilities.
Go ahead and sh*t talk the Coast Guard to the face of an MSRT… I’ll wait.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
The MSRT is called in for situations that involve neutralizing terrorists or pirates. The scope of their mission is huge — if it’s in the interest of America to neutralize a threat at sea, they will. Their area of operations includes the often-misunderstood international waters.
As with most Special Operations, their movements are not often discussed in the news — but they go everywhere. Recently, one of their known areas of operations has been off the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea and all around the coast of Africa.
At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.
President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?
Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News
In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”
Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.
So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?
Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.
“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”
See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.
In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.
Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.
In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.
Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).
Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.
But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.
From a spin on the traditional gift of socks to the ultimate knife and shades, here are six gifts perfect for military, police and fire professionals, as well as folks that love to spend their spare time shooting, hunting and in the great outdoors.
Gerber Short Stack
Gerber Short Stack is perfect for go bags, gun cases AND Christmas stockings.
It’s an innovative, field-expedient weapons maintenance tool- specifically for the M4 – that goes wherever your rifle does.
You need your gun to work, and that means you need to take care of it. This is the perfect stocking stuffer for soldier, cop, or civilian with an AR-15.
Whether you are stuffing a stocking for someone whose daily job requires going into harm’s way, or for someone who has invested in a quality weapon, Gerber Short Stack is a great choice.
Launched about five months ago, the tool is priced at $54.
For tactical folks, New Year’s Eve is a chance to play hard after working hard. After being over served bourbon, shades may be in order the next day.
With a host of GATORZ shades to choose from, RockStars or Wraptors are two particularly solid choices. Virtually indestructible and ultra comfortable, they are ideal for just about everything, from skydiving to riding motorcycles.
How robust? The frames are made from the highest-grade material available – 7075 Billet Aircraft Aluminum – that’s right, aircraft materials! The lenses are made from highly impact-resistant polycarbonate. In addition to strength, they provide 100 percent UV protection and extremely sharp and clear vision.
Made in the US, the Wraptor Tactical Black Frame with Grey Polarized Lens is available for $180.
How about tucking some tactical light in a stocking? The Princeton Tec Tactical Quad Headlamp is available at Rei for $39.95. This tactical headlamp has four LED bulbs with 60-lumen output that operate in high, medium, low and flashing modes –great for signaling.
It is also waterproof to about three feet. The LEDs can throw a wide beam of light about 115 feet. The headlamp can be adjusted to where you want your beam and it fits comfortably over a hat.
Colored interchangeable lenses are key and this one has four. The red lens helps preserve night vision while providing good illumination. For hunting, the green lens can help increase your visibility and safety.
How about lighting up more than a tree this Christmas?
The new ultra compact Titan Plus flashlight by Surefire is a next-level key chain providing light at professional standards. It fits in the palm of your hand and easily in a pocket. About three inches long, it is designed to be discreet and smart.
Powered by readily available AAAs, it also comes with a rechargeable battery that gives it around seven hours use.
It weighs a mere 2 ounces, so it is light enough to carry anytime. It’s available for $99.99 at Surefire flashlights.
Tactical professionals need to maintain their fitness. Socks can be boring, but these are for the serious athlete.
As their name suggests, CXU Compression Socks for Recovery are specifically designed to aid recovery from training hard. They feature super strong compression fabric throughout the sock for enhanced circulation. They’re also designed to help clear blood lactate after crushing it.
For folks making who love to get out hunting, an amazing knife is always a great gift.
Half Face Blades, founded by a veteran who served in Navy SEAL teams, is a company that makes knives and tools. These blades are so coveted, they are nearly impossible to get a hold of. However, you can email the knife maker, put someone you love on the wish list, and get notified when they become available.
Here’s the great news – there’s a two-day Christmas auction for charity that gives you a chance to grab one. Up for grabs are two knives – each is giraffe bone with one orange with black liner and the other black with orange liner. There are carbon fiber pins and spine work with stainless lanyard tube. They both also come with a leather sheath.
Bidding ends at noon on Dec. 23. To place a bid or put a loved on the list to receive a knife email INFO@HALFFACEBLADES.COM.
During the Battle of Okinawa, one United States Navy ship went up against unbelievable odds — and survived to tell the incredible tale. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724) faced off against a horde of Japanese pilots — some of whom, now known as kamikazes, were willing to crash into American vessels and sacrifice their lives to complete their mission.
Now, the Laffey’s story is coming to the big screen.
Mel Gibson, acclaimed actor and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, is currently working on Destroyer, a film based on the Wukovits’ book, Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack. The film will be centered around the 90 minutes of chaos experienced by the crew of the Laffey on April 16, 1945. In the span of roughly an hour and a half, the Laffey was hit by four bombs and struck by as many as eight kamikazes.
USS Laffey (DD 724) during World War II, packing six dual-purpose five-inch guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
USS Laffey’s story didn’t start and end with those fateful 90 minutes, however. After Okinawa, she was repaired and went on to see action in the Korean War. After Korea, she served until 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels. Unlike many of her sister ships that went directly to the scrapyard, she was preserved as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
USS Laffey (DD 724, right) next to USS Hank (DD 702), a sister ship named after William Hank, the commanding officer of the first USS Laffey (DD 459).
Laffey’s commanding officer, Commander Frederick J. Becton, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that April day in 1945. Becton was a well-decorated troop in World War II. He received the Silver Star four times, including once for heroism on D-Day and twice more for actions in the Philippines while commanding the Laffey.
The first USS Laffey (DD 459), a Benson-class destroyer, pulling alongside another ship in 1942.
A previous USS Laffey, a Benson-class destroyer with the hull number DD 459, saw action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, but became a legend during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of Friday, November 13, 1942. The destroyer closed to within 20 feet of the Japanese battleship Hiei and wounded Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe before being sunk by enemy fire. The sinking of the Laffey cost many US lives, but left the Japanese without command in a pivotal moment.
It seems as though the name ‘Laffey’ is destined to fight the odds.
Check out the video below to see director Mel Gibson’s excitement as he discusses the near-impossible bravery of the USS Laffey at Okinawa.
Throughout history, Italy wasn’t known for its dominance or military strength, but these knife-wielding operators made crucial advances using only a small force.
The Arditi, meaning “the daring ones,” were a group of volunteers, chosen from the most courageous of men and considered to be Italy’s most elite soldiers during WWI. Getting their name from the Royal Italian Army in 1917, they were known for engaging the enemy with vicious hand to hand combat and swift tactical movement.
The Arditi organization was much smaller than the regular infantry units, consisting of only five officers, 41 NCOs, and 150 men. Their unique strategy relied heavily on surprise, speed, and their sheath as they strategically advanced towards their opposition behind a curtain of allied artillery fire.
According to The Great War Youtube channel, once the bombardment ceased, the men would charge forward into enemy trenches, with only daggers in their teeth and grenades in their hands, with the goal of clearing and then holding their newly-earned positions until the relief of their fellow troops arrived, which could take up to a full day.
Due to their outstanding production, they were paid almost three times what the regular Army received.
Then, a bonus system was employed for taking enemy prisoners — 10 lire for a Private, 20 for an NCO, and 50 for an officer. Not to mention there was compensation for capturing enemy weapons, ranging from anywhere between 5 to 500 lire depending on the weapon’s size and caliber.
The Arditi seized 3,600 prisoners, 63 machine guns and 26 pieces of artillery over their course of the war. The Arditi were making bank back in 1917 and deserved every cent — according to History Answers.
As their losses in personnel grew, new soldiers were assigned to Arditi units by recommendation only. Before they could officially join, they had to complete a specialized school that mimicked the dangers and conditions of the front lines.
The fatality rates among the recruits were extremely high due to the realistic training methods.
The Great War Channel reports that wasn’t until Battle of Vittorio Veneto Offensive in October of 1918 when the Arditi would make its largest impact on the war. A dozen Arditi units combined, making two monstrous assault divisions. The brave men lead one another on a forceful charge on the Austro-Hungarian forces, resulting in a climatic victory.
Although the Arditi was disbanded in 1920, their bravery, patriotism, and impact on the Great War lives on in Italian military historical lore.
The M2, known as “Ma Deuce,” is a classic machine gun that is coming close to a century of service with the United States military. This gun fires about 600 rounds per minute, and has been used on ground mounts, on boats, and even was the main armament of most of America’s World War II fighters. When it comes to suppressive fire, you just can’t get much better than the M2.
Or can you?
The M134 Minigun is a classic machine gun in its own right, first entering service during the Vietnam War – and it soon shows it could deliver a lot of BRRRRRT! in a small package. In one sense, it is a retro design since it’s based on the Civil War-era Gatling gun. The original Civil War Gatling guns were hand-turned affairs.
The Minigun, however, uses electric power to spin the barrels. As a result, the Minigun can put a lot of rounds downrange – as many as 6,000 rounds a minute.
In this video, the hosts of “Triggers” decide to find out which actually puts more on the target. A 55-gallon drum “volunteers” to be the test subject. Actually, as an inanimate object, it had no real choice in the matter. But hey, there’s plenty of 55-gallon drums where that came from, right?
The hosts then go a thousand yards away for the purposes of the test. The M2 takes the first five-second burst, then the Minigun takes its five-second burst.
Wait until you see the results from this little head-to-head competition between these two full-auto classics via the Military Heroes Channel.
A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.
During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.
Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:
Troops and veterans have little sympathy for the clowns that put on a military uniform around Veterans Day just to try and get 10 percent off their restaurant bill. For lack of a more polite word, the military community offers nothing but unbridled rage to those unworthy of wearing uniform who degrade it in the public eye.
But there is another form of so-called “stolen valor” that rarely gets brought up within the military community — and that’s in-service stolen valor. The Army simply refers to it as being a “PX Ranger,” named after the fool who goes to the PX, buys a Ranger tab, and slaps it on without even stepping foot on the course, let alone completing it.
In addition to going against many official regulations, the troops who do this are damaging the good order and discipline of the military far more than the phonies who make laughable attempts to shave a few bucks off their lunch.
You should know which awards you have. After all, you were likely there to receive them.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russell Martin)
Now, to be clear, there’s a huge difference between in-service stolen valor and the obligatory embellishments that come with military storytelling. It’s one thing to tell a group of younger Joes that, “no sh*t, there you were…” and it’s another to wear an unearned award to back up your claim. For starters, everyone knows to take service stories with a grain of salt. Amplifying a few details to get the point across is harmless; wearing accolades you’ve not earned, on the other hand, is strictly forbidden by Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Depending on the severity of the infraction, the accused could face a maximum punishment of forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a bad conduct discharge, and up to six months in confinement. According to the rules, there’s no distinction made between the guy who adds an extra oak leaf cluster to an Army Commendation Medal and the scumbag who tells everyone their Silver Star is “still being figured out by their last unit.”
There’s just some things you can’t just “yeah, well, you see. What had happened was” your way through. Being a ranger is one of them.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)
This harms the military in several ways, the most prominent being that it takes away from the hard work and dedication of those who spent blood, sweat, and tears to get recognized. Regardless of the decoration, there’s weight behind it. If you see an NCO wearing a Ranger tab, you can assume that they’ve got a solid understanding of what it takes to be a bad*ss. They will become the go-to expert on all things relating to operational and tactical planning. If that understanding is built on a lie, then the entire unit suffers.
Because it is punishable under the UMCJ and it’s assumed that wearing a decoration means you’re worthy of it, there shouldn’t have to be the background checks that have inevitably cropped up because of these Blue Falcons. Sure, the old lady at the register still doesn’t ask for a Ranger School graduation certificate when someone buys the tab, but these phonies have helped foster an unwarranted level of scrutiny among the troops. Any real Ranger can easily provide proof, yes, but it’s a shame we need to spend time validating what we’ve already earned because of a few bad apples.
There isn’t anything wrong with being the average Joe in the formation. The moment you raised your right hand and completed your branch’s initial entry training, you’ve earned the respect of all the brothers and sisters who’ve come before you.
Embrace who you are. If you want to be better, go out and be better. Talk to your training room about getting into that school you want. Do extraordinary things in your unit to get that prestigious award. Request a change in MOS if you feel like you’re being held back by your position in the unit. Whatever you do, don’t just pin yourself with something unless you’ve earned it — or else you’re no better than the prick screaming for a military discount after buying a uniform online.
Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the US Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get.
Turkey, as well as a host of other US allies, are awaiting the F-35 to replace aging fleets of Cold War-era warplanes and bring them into a networked, futuristic style of aerial combat.
Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the US, Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a “taste of Turkey’s rich heritage and diverse culture,” with a long intro song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dressed as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance.
But after the curtain rolled back on Turkey’s single F-35, and Turkey’s military leaders expressed hope for a powerful and networked new air force, a major question remains: Will Turkey even get its promised 100 F-35s?
Turkey took part in building the F-35, as did many countries. It’s an important NATO ally positioned as a bridge between east and west. The US bases airmen and nuclear weapons in Turkey, but lately, the relationship has soured.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
There’s deep concerns in the US over Turkey’s human rights record, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan authoritarian regime, and Turkey’s recent interest in Russian missile defenses.
Turkey is on track to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATO’s missile defense network and the F-35’s next-generation capabilities. Basically, as NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, letting Russia patch in would defeat the purpose and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.
For that reason, and human rights concerns, the US Senate wrote into its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that it wanted Turkey’s F-35s held back.
Lockheed Martin officials said they still expected the sale to go through and the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and Trump approves, Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long time.
Potentially, Turkey may be persuaded by the US to give up on its S-400 purchase from Russia, but it’s also possible that a scorned Turkey will go through with the purchase and have a single US-made stealth jet networked into Russian technology.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.
Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.
The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports
Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia
Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory
Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.
It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.
Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.
It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.
With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.
In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.
A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise
Georgia’s NATO woes
Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”
“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.
The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”
‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’
The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.
“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.
“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.
“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind
The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.
The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve.
A White House statement on April 19, 2018, said John Bolton, who took over from H.R. McMaster on April 9, 2018, made the remarks in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov.
“At the first meeting between the two in their current roles, they discussed the state of the relationships between the United States and Russia,” the statement said.
“Ambassador Bolton reiterated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to have better relations, but that this will require addressing our concerns regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the reckless use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria,” it added.
Several global issues have raised tensions between Washington and Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations between the two countries.
The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of a widespread cyberhacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election vote.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The United States and Europe have slapped sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The U.S. military has assailed Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and says it holds Moscow responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Meanwhile, the United States has said it supports Britain in a dispute with Russia over the March 4, 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.
Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election, said it had nothing to do with the Skripal poisonings, and claimed the allegations of a chemical attack in Syria are false.
The 69-year-old Bolton, a former UN ambassador, has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign-policy circles for decades. Among his more controversial stands, he has advocated for preemptive military strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.
Dr. Laura Sidari is speaking out because her family suffered a horrendous loss on Christmas Day 2017.
The Air Force psychiatrist at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and her husband, Dr. Anthony Sidari, a rheumatologist, lost their 4-year-old son, Leon, to complications of influenza. He passed away at a medical facility elsewhere from bacterial pneumonia following the flu, two days following onset of symptoms on Dec. 23, 2018.
Although the Sidari family had vaccinated for the flu in prior seasons, Leon died prior to receiving his flu shot that season, Sidari said. He had been scheduled to be vaccinated Jan. 3, 2018.
“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently,” she said. “As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child. Through reaching out to others, including other physician parents, I have discovered that I am not alone in that misconception.”
“Leon’s story places a name and a face — a beautiful and loved and special human being — behind the numbers that are often buried in databases and scattered across headlines,” Sidari said. “As difficult as it is for me as a mother, I share Leon’s story so that someday other families may not have to. As I have devastatingly learned through Leon, flu-related complications are often aggressive and difficult to treat.”
Healthy children may be more at risk for suffering a flu-related death. Research of flu-related deaths provides evidence for the flu shot providing a 65 percent reduction in risk for flu-related mortality in healthy children, and a 41 percent reduction in mortality risk for children with pre-existing medical issues. Approximately 80 percent of children who pass away each season from flu-related complications did not have their flu shot that season.
Four-year-old Leon Sidari passed away from bacterial pneumonia following the flu two days after the onset of symptoms on Dec. 25, 2017.
“Being healthy is a risk factor for rapid death,” Sidari said. “I didn’t even know that as a physician. Compared to other pediatric populations, they die more quickly.”
As of Oct. 6, 2018, there have been more than 180 children lost to the 2017-2018 influenza season, according to online information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these children died before reaching the hospital.
Sidari is quick to point out that she is speaking only from her perspective as a mother — not a pediatric specialist — who made sure her children received every vaccination recommended. After Leon’s death, she tried to learn as much as she could about influenza in the hope that the Sidari family’s then 2-year-old son, Tristan, and 7-week-old son, Cameron, would not also pass away.
“I really wanted to understand the likelihood that we were going to lose our other children,” she said. “That’s how I found this information.”
The mother, with the full support of her husband, now wants to dispel the common misconception that good health affords protection against the flu, and the entire Sidari family received flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center immunization clinic the first week of October 2018.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the flu shot for everyone older than the age of 6 months with few medical exceptions.
The Sidari family faces this holiday season without their first-born, who loved Christmas. His mother remembers him as good big brother who was kind and sensitive, loved cats and gave compliments. Small things are what mattered to him.
“Nothing prepares you as a parent for coming home and having to unwrap Christmas presents for a child who never can,” she said.
“As parents, there are many demands on our time and energy, particularly around the holidays,” Sidari said. “The flu shot can too easily and understandably slip through the cracks due to busy schedules.
“In my experience, it is worth prioritizing this time of the year. This is a necessary appointment. Bringing awareness to the flu shot will not bring Leon back. I do, however, believe in the healing power of connecting with others,” she said.
She also encourages people to explore multiple options if flu shots are unavailable through their usual source.
“It is my hope that Leon’s story can help save lives,” Sidari said. “Especially for children like Leon, I encourage other families to consider making the flu shot a priority, this season and every season. It’s the best way of reducing risk we have. #FluShotsForLeon.”