The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 killed three and wounded 264 others. The attack was committed by two American brothers of Chechen descent who set off a couple of pressure cooker explosives they learned to make from an English language al-Qaeda magazine. One of the brothers died after the other brother ran him over with a stolen SUV following a shootout with law enforcement. The other brother is in prison, awaiting execution.
At least 14 of the the bombing victims required amputations. Anyone who undergoes amputations of limbs for any reason will go through the five psychological stages of grief, but 20-22 percent of all amputees will experience some form of post-traumatic stress, according to studies from the National Institute of Health. For the civilian victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, their stress is coupled by the two explosions, just 12 seconds apart, that killed three, injured scores more, and took one or more of their limbs.
The aforementioned studies show the ability to cope with an amputation be affected by pain, level of disability, the look of the amputated limb and associated prosthetics, and the presence of social supports. The 14 amputee survivors of the bombing received a ready network of support from wounded warriors, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who lost limbs during their service. Within days of the attack, injured veterans arrived in Boston to meet the survivors.
“We felt as amputees compelled to get out here,” said Captain Cameron West, a Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan. “It won’t define them as a person … soon all of them will be able to do everything they could before the terror attack.”
“Military combat veterans are not the only victims of PTSD,” said Dr. Philip Leveque, a pharmacology researcher, WWII veteran, and author of “General Patton’s Dogface Soldier of WWII.” “Civilians in a horrific event like those in Boston will not only be victims of these events but may be mistreated by their physicians with morphine-like drugs, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs, which can cause adverse side effects, including suicide.”
Chris Claude is a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Pennsylvania. He met with marathon amputees and told the Associated Press it was his chance to provide the kind of support he got after the amputation of his right leg following a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. B.J. Ganem, a Marine who lost his left leg in Afghanistan, said all he saw was resilience. The two groups came together again later in 2013, at the New England Patriots home opener. They were honored on the field together before the game.
“I like the idea of the amputees coming out on the field together,” Claude said. “It’s another way for people in the crowd to see the human spirit can’t be broken.”
But seriously, when did the 3 worse jobs (newspaper reporter, broadcaster, and logger) ever have to stir their buddies’ MRE dumps into a diesel mixture and then mix it while it burns?
Here are 7 things CareerCast failed to mention about why being an enlisted service member is actually the worst:
1. The aforementioned MRE dumps
Look, CareerCast looked at a lot of factors, but they don’t once mention diet and food choices in their methodology. Pretty sure newspaper reporters and broadcasters aren’t stuck eating 5-yr-old brisket and then trying to crap it out after it turns into a brick in their intestines.
2. Multi-year contracts guaranteed by prison time
They did look at “degree of confinement” as one of the “physical factors” of their measurements, but not as an emotional factor. Remember the last time a logger got tired of their job, walked off, and spent the next few years in prison?
No, you don’t. Because the only way that happens is if they set some machinery on fire or crap into someone else’s boots on their way out. But troops can’t quit, and there ain’t no discharge on the ground.
3. Long ruck marches, range days, and multi-day field operations
The list’s method discounts physical factors compared to emotional factors (“stamina” and “necessary energy” both top out at 5 points while facing strong competition for job placement and promotion is worth 15 points on its own).
Ummmm, anyone actually think waiting an extra year or two for promotion is harder than brigade runs every payday, 12.4-mile ruck marches every few months, and having to unload and re-load connexes whenever a lieutenant loses their radio? All so you can go face a nine-man board when you want to get promoted?
4. The barracks
Drunken parties spill into the hallways just an hour before sergeant major drags everyone out to pick up cigarette butts whether they smoke or not. Idiots knock on your door because they don’t know where their buddy lives, which sucks for you since you have duty in the morning.
But hey, at least your boss’s boss’s boss is going to walk through the building this Friday and critique every detail of how you live. That sounds like something that happens to reporters. Sure.
Look, loggers are famous for their beards. And most people in the news and broadcast businesses can grow beards as long as they aren’t on camera.
Enlisted folks, meanwhile, have their faces checked for stubble at 6:30 most mornings.
6. PT Formation
Speaking of which, that 6:30 formation where they’ll get destroyed for having a beard is the physical training formation, the one where they have to spread out and do a lot of pushups and situps in the cold and dark while wearing t-shirts and shorts because first sergeants have some perverse hatred of winter PTs.
All of that without a beard. It’s tragic.
7. All those extra laws
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a major part of maintaining unit discipline, but man is it annoying to have your own set of laws on top of everyone else’s. And, some of those UCMJ articles basically just say that you have to follow all rules and regulations, which are a couple hundred extra ways to do something illegal.
A sailor who smokes or eats while walking is in violation of NAVPERS 15665I, which is backed up by articles of the UCMJ and federal law Title, U.S. Code 10. Think chowing down on a donut while walking into the office is illegal for loggers, broadcasters, or reporters?
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
Several years ago, the United States debated supplying Syrian rebels with high-tech armaments such as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. Critics contended that the weapons might fall into the hands of US-designated “terrorist organizations.”
But it is in Iraq that the fear has become real: the US has armed American-killing Iranian proxies and terrorist groups with its best tank, the M1 Abrams.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State group, have acquired M1 Abrams tanks given to the Iraqi army. Two PMF militias – the Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – have posted pictures and videos of their fighters alongside M1 Abrams tanks draped with their banners and flags.
The tanks once belonged to the 9th Armored Division, the only Iraqi Army unit that operates the M1 Abrams. It remains ambiguous whether the militiamen in the videos are controlling the tanks themselves or just posing with them under the supervision of tank crews from the 9th.
“In the videos, the passengers in the tanks are wearing the 9th’s uniforms,” Iraqi Army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Baidani told The New Arab. “Taking pictures and placing flags on the tank alone is not proof of ownership.”
Baidani added that the Iraqi Armed Forces and the PMF conduct combined operations “in most battles,” calling allegations that the 9th had loaned the M1 Abrams to the PMF “untrue.”
But sources in the PMF told The New Arab a different story, explaining that the militias obtained the M1 Abrams in two ways: “Sometimes, the PMF asks for American tanks from the Iraqi Army, if Russian-made tanks are unavailable,” said Hussam al-Mayahi, a Badr engineer specializing in military technology and remote weapons stations.
“The PMF also seized some after the fall of Mosul and the second Battle of Tikrit, taking them from IS.”
During IS’ campaign across the east and north of Iraq, the militants managed to seize numerous M1 Abrams tanks, including at least ten during the Battle of Ramadi in 2015.
Jafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, confirmed this story: “We captured the American tanks and other military vehicles from IS, who, in turn, [had] seized them from what was left by the Iraqi army. Now, they are under our control, and we are seeking more.”
He claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias now held all IS’ M1 Abrams tanks.
Other tanks appear to come straight from the 9th: “Tanks are provided to us according to the circumstances of the battles and offensives, before being returned to the Defense Ministry,” Karim al-Nuri, a ranking Badr commander, told The New Arab.
Al-Nuri says he has never seen the PMF directly use an American tank but, when shown the pictures and videos that Badr had posted, replied: “It’s important to take any tanks – whether Russian or American.”
If the US delivered M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq’s Defense Ministry despite knowing that they could be given to the PMF, the Pentagon might have violated the Leahy Law – which prohibits the US Defense and State Departments from providing military aid to security forces guilty of abusing human rights.
Iraq remains on the State Department’s list of countries with the most child soldiers, because of these militias who continue to recruit minors.
Kataib Hezbollah presents a wider dilemma. In 2009, the State Department designated it a “terrorist organization” for killing American soldiers, and the US Treasury Department labelled its founder, the Iraqi warlord Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a “specially designated global terrorist.”
Al-Muhandis works as an operative for the Quds Force, the sub-unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations on Iran’s behalf.
“We have heard these reports and we are looking into them,” said a spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, who emphasized in an email, “Department of Defense policies on the provision of military assistance to foreign military forces require that Iraqi Security Forces receiving equipment or training are strictly vetted in accordance with the Leahy Act as well as for associations with terrorist organizations and/or the government of Iran.”
These policies appear to have failed.
A State Department official admitted, “not all US-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient ministry/unit. We are concerned that a small number of M1A1 tanks may be in the possession of forces other than the Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Army.”
“The United States has not provided these or other defense articles to the PMF.”
“Nevertheless, we understand that some equipment has come into the possession of the PMF, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces by law, and have been used in the fight against ISIS. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq to act as quickly as possible to return these defense articles to their intended recipient ministry/units.”
Despite acknowledging that the PMF had seized many M1 Abrams tanks in one way or another, the State Department declined to estimate just how many. It could not confirm whether it had lost track of how many tanks may be under the militias’ control.
The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which oversee the sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other weapons to Iraq, failed to reply to repeated requests for comment by email and phone for this article.
In December 2014, several months after the Iraqi army had lost many of its M1 Abrams tanks to IS, the State Department agreed to sell it another 175, once the Defense Department notified the US Congress, which has spent much more time deliberating over tanks sold to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq.
For now at least, Iraq appears to have a continuous supply of the M1 Abrams for years to come. Al-Husseini, the Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, may just get his wish.
In the 241 years since the US declared independence from the English in 1776, the uniforms of those serving in the US Army have changed drastically.
Over the years, as the nation grew, uniforms, too, have evolved to fit the times and take advantage of changes in tactics and technology. In some cases, as this paper from US Army History notes, the changes were minor affairs, while in other cases, the look of the US Army was radically changed.
The US Marine Corps says it needs ground-launched missiles that can seek out and eliminate enemy ships sailing in contested waterways.
“Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps have done over the past six months is how we think we’re going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
“That means the Marine Corps assumes a role which we have not had in the past 20 years, which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial,” he added.
The Marines have practiced striking stationary ships from land and sea with missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, but now the service wants to take it a step further and hit ships on the move.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said the Corps wants a system with an active seeker that can chase down a moving ship, something it doesn’t currently have.
“We have to have a system that can go after that,” Smith told lawmakers. “That is what matters in a contested environment in the South China Sea or in the [Indo-Pacific Command] area.”
Changing the calculus of an adversary
The Marines are currently looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which has a range of roughly 750 nautical miles, as a Ground-Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) solution.
Smith said the service will test fire the system in June.
The NSM is “capable of sea-skimming, high-g maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side, rather than top-down,” according to written testimony submitted to the HASC.
The NSM would be fired from a mobile launch platform based on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE-Fires, vehicle. The missile and the vehicle together are the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the testimony says.
The GBASM and ROGUE-Fires vehicle are “rapid prototyping and development initiatives” for the Corps, according to documents submitted as part of the service’s 2021 budget proposal.
Both have proven successful in war games and simulations, Berger said Thursday.
“Game-changer is probably an over-the-top characterization, but it definitely changes the calculus of an adversary,” Berger said.
The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal included a request for 48 Tomahawk missiles, likely the maritime variant, which appears to be first for the Corps.
“What we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can, from ship or from shore, hold an adversary’s naval force at risk. That missile is going to help us do that,” Berger told the SASC.
Berger said the Tomahawk “could be the answer or could be the first step toward a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now.”
With the collapse last year of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,000 km (310 miles and 3,100 miles) — after the US withdrew in response to alleged Russian violations, the Marine Corps has more freedom when it comes to ground-launched missiles.
Asked if the request for Tomahawks was a result of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Berger said he “would assume so” but “hadn’t linked the two together.”
“We just knew we need a long-range precision fires beyond the range that we were restricted to before,” he added.
A military judge at the Guantanamo Bay detention center ruled Nov. 1 that a senior legal official in charge of the defense for terrorism suspects should be held in contempt of court in a dispute that has disrupted court proceedings at the base.
Air Force Col. Vance Spath issued the ruling against Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker at a hearing at the US base in Cuba.
Spath said Baker should be confined to his quarters for 21 days and fined $1,000 for releasing three defense lawyers in a terrorism case without the judge’s authorization. A senior Pentagon legal official known as the convening authority must uphold the ruling before it becomes official and Baker is expected to challenge it.
Baker was led out of the courtroom to the shock of colleagues.
“It’s incredibly outrageous. It’s disgusting,” said Michel Paradis, a lawyer with the Pentagon’s Military Commission Defense Organization. “This Air Force colonel without any legal authority is arresting the chief defense counsel and sending him to the brig over what is, in essence, an administration authority dispute.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said that the judge acted under rules allowing him to ensure military commission proceedings are “conducted in a fair and orderly manner” and that the convening authority was expected to decide on the sentence in the coming days.
The dispute arose during the pretrial phase in the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi and alleged senior member of al-Qaeda who is accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 crew members. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole—a Navy Destroyer—as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Photo form FBI.
Baker excused three defense attorneys assigned by the Pentagon to defend al-Nashiri on ethical issues that arose out of what they said was a breach of the attorney-client privilege. Officials have not disclosed the details of the allege breach, saying the information is classified.
The decision by the Marine general disrupted proceedings at the base scheduled for this week because the remaining defense lawyer said he lacked the experience necessary to carry on. Spath had declined to postpone the hearing.
Lawyers for the Military Commission Defense Organization have asked a judge in Washington to issue an emergency order halting the hearing this week until the issue is resolved.
The Defense Department stands ready to assist in operations surrounding a failing dam in northern California, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said DoD officials are watching closely as the dam erodes.
“The dam is failing, and evacuation orders have been given to close to 200,000 people in the area,” he said. “While the [water] depths are reported to be decreasing, we do note that rain is expected later this week.”
DoD is in touch with the California National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the commander of U.S. Northern Command, Davis said. Northcom provides command and control of Defense Department homeland defense efforts and coordinates defense support of civil authorities.
“We’ve dispatched liaison officers to the state emergency operations center, and are prepared to deploy any Title 10 capabilities – federal military – quickly if requested,” Davis noted, adding that the entire California National Guard, which comprises about 23,000 service members, is on alert status.
FEMA and DoD coordinating officials stand by to put state and federal asset requests into action as they arise, he said.
“If the dam should break, there are FEMA, California National Guard and DoD personnel who will all be prepared to respond,” the Pentagon spokesman told reporters. “We are leaning forward and are ready to assist if needed.”
Types of help DoD is prepared to provide include aviation, airborne imagery and water rescue — both swift water and still water — as well as mass care and shelter assistance, he added.
DoD officials are trying to anticipate such requests before they come, Davis said, and is keeping a dialogue open to quickly get its forces ready should they be needed.
“We recognize that one of our most solemn duties is to assist the American people in their greatest time of need,” the captain said. “While the state, first and foremost, has the responsibility for doing that, there’s a federal element, should they need it, which is ready to respond quickly.”
We Are The Mighty’s editor-in-chief Ward Carroll recently sat down with Got Your 6‘s executive director Bill Rausch — a West Point graduate and Iraq War vet — to talk about the organization’s campaign to compel Americans to vote by viewing the experience through the lens of military veterans and for vets to lead the effort by their example.
WATM: What do you hope to gain by going to the conventions?
Bill Rausch: Over the next two weeks, Cleveland and Philadelphia will be the epicenter of the presidential campaign, which is why our attendance as veteran leaders is critical. Both campaigns have been supportive in providing credentials to our team helping us achieve four main objectives, which are to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets, engage the candidates on issues of importance to the veteran and military communities, compel veterans to participate in the electoral process as voters, community leaders, and candidates themselves, and, finally, to leverage the service and experience of veterans and military personnel as inspiration for all Americans to vote.
WATM: What should the veteran community take from your efforts over the next few weeks?
BR: Well, it’s not really about what veterans should take from it, it’s more like a challenge to veterans and the entire military community. Like we did during our time in uniform, we need to lead. As veterans and civic assets, we have a responsibility to call the country to action this November by participating in the electoral process — whether it be by registering and committing to vote, volunteering for a campaign, or running for state or local office. We need to engage candidates on policy issues that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Any candidate running for federal, state, or local office should be challenged to clearly define their policy stances on issues of importance to veterans. And, vets need to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets. Veterans may have taken off the uniform but their commitment to service has not faltered. Veterans vote at higher rates, volunteer more, and participate in their communities at rates higher than their civilian counterparts. It’s time we change the narrative of the damaged veteran by showcasing and highlighting actual veteran leaders serving their communities.
WATM: And what about the broader American public; what should they take from this effort?
BR: Good question. We also want to challenge the American public. While we’re focused on the military community, this campaign applies to everyone. All Americans can honor the sacrifice of veterans by actively participating in our democratic process. Register and vote in November, regardless of your background or political leanings. We can all unite in the goal of increasing the political engagement of our citizens. In January 2005, 80 percent of registered Iraqis went to the polls to vote in the first national election after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Images were beamed around the world of Iraqi voters holding up their ink-stained fingers as a sign of pride and hope for the future. Despite our national commitment to spreading the institution of democracy to others, America’s voting turnout was a paltry 54 percent of the eligible voting public in November 2012. We can and should do better. And all of us — not just vets, but all of us — should insist that the debates deal with real issues, ones that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Civilians have a responsibility to challenge candidates to outline their plans for supporting and empowering our veterans.
WATM: You’ve worked on a major presidential campaign, testified in front of congress and work with government leaders as the executive director of Got Your 6. Of all of that experience, what do you think informs this campaign the most?
BR: I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in May of 2006 on the heels of the December 2005 Iraqi election and I met with so many Iraqis who proudly showed me photos of themselves and their families holding up their purple fingers on election day. These men and women faced down roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and snipers to participate in their democracy with 80 percent turnout. Over the past 100 years, we’ve not even come close to that level of turnout. We can do better. We should do better. We will do better.
WATM: Given the plans and statements made by both candidates on reforming the VA, is there a candidate that you support?
BR: Got Your 6 is a non-partisan, non-profit veterans organization. We do not publicly support one candidate or party over the other. I am a member of the ‘veteran party’ and serving the veteran and military family community is my primary purpose this campaign cycle.
WATM: Do you know who you are going to vote for?
BR: I can tell you that I plan on voting at my local polling place, Fire Station No. 4 in Alexandria, VA with my wife and 2-year-old son. I believe that voting is a civic responsibility and that our country is stronger when more people participate in our democracy. For me, voting as a family is a way to lead by example and show my son the importance of voting in every election. It’s our duty and obligation as citizens of this great country to vote on November 8th, 2016 which happens to be veterans week and I can’t think of a better week for election day to fall on.
WATM: Agreed. Thanks for your time Bill, and we look forward to watching you and your team in Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next few weeks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.
In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.
The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.
The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.
The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.
Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.
A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.
Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.
The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.
Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”
Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”
Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.
Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.
The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.
Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.
In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.
“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.
“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”
Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.
He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.
Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.
McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.
The Army is testing and prototyping self-generating “Ironman-like” soldier exoskeletons, designed to massively change combat missions by supporting soldier movement, generating electricity, powering weapons systems, and substantially lowering the weight burden of what troops carry in war.
Energy-harvesting technology can extend mission life for small units or dismounted soldiers on-patrol. The emerging concept, described by Army developers as a technical breakthrough is engineered, not so much for the near-term, but 10 to 20 years down the road.
“The design is for an energy-harvesting exoskeleton to address the needs of dismounted soldiers. The system can derive energy from the motion of the soldier as they are moving around,” Dr. Nathan Sharps, mechanical engineer, Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The implications of this kind of technology are significant. While exoskeletons have been in development for several years now, the technology consistently confronts the challenge of finding ways to sustain mobile power sources to support and sustain its functionality.
Furthermore, current use of batteries brings significant combat challenges due to difficulty recharging and the massive amount of weight involved in hauling them through combat.
For instance, should a soldier carry a portable 35-pound generator, water, ammunition, weapons, and communications equipment, mission duration and soldier effectiveness is greatly impacted. The Army has been pursuing various efforts to “lighten the load” for soldiers for many years now.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun, 108th Public Affairs Detachment)
“The technologies we are developing can produce electricity, which can be stored and used to power batteries. This increases the longevity of a mission, decreases the need for resupply and reduces the logistics trail,” Sharps explained.
Sharps further elaborated that during intense combat engagement, casualties often occur during logistics resupply missions.
An added advantage is that, while the technology harvests energy from the motion of soldiers, it also simultaneously eases the strain on their joints and muscles due to its apparatus.
“This decreases the chance of muscular-skeletal injury. We look at the soldier as an individual ecosystem. We’re not just looking at what they cannot do right now, but also at what challenges they are going to face 20 years from now,” Sharps said.
The emerging system, currently in the early phases of exploration, calls upon a collaborative effort between CERDEC, the Army Research Laboratory and the Army’s Natick Soldier Center.
The scientists explain that added electrical energy decreases the number of calories a soldier has to burn.
“When you move, you bounce up and down, and the gait motion is an inverted pendulum. If you lift every step thousands of times, it is a whole lot of energy you are expending,” said Juliane Douglas, mechanical engineer, CERDEC, told Warrior Maven.
The Army is currently exploring various configurations for the exoskeleton, some of which include a suspended backpack, which can slide up and down on a spring, having little or no weight impact on the soldier.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)
“In mechanical engineering terms, if you have masses moving together, there is a kinetic energy difference between the two. We have mechanisms which can convert that linear motion into electricity,” explained Douglas.
This technical advantage will impact a wide array of emerging systems now being built into exoskeletons. Not surprisingly, many of these rely upon mobile power to operate.
For example, helmets with high-resolution thermal sensors, wearable computers, various kinds of conformal body armor and even many weapons systems are now being built into a range of Ironman-like exoskeletons.
U.S. Special Operations Command’s current TALOS effort is working with a wide sphere of industry, military and academic experts on plans to build initial exoskeleton prototypes within the next year or two. This longer-term CERDEC effort is the kind of thing which could easily merge with, or integrate into, some of these exoskeletons now being built.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army’s website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
Army evaluators have also been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance enhancing soldier technologies.
Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
FORTIS is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of the movements.
CERDEC developers say their effort is observing and working closely with many of these efforts looking to find exoskeleton technologies able to better protect and enable soldiers in combat.
“What we are doing is designing the conversion technologies to make many of these technologies more effective by storing the energy. We are testing prototypes, and we are able to leverage current exoskeleton work and use it as a platform for our systems,” Douglas said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.