Yet another patriotic war movie has taken Russia by storm.
T-34, a high-octane tribute to the Soviet tank that played a key role on the Eastern Front of World War II, is the latest in a series of big-budget history flicks sponsored by the Culture Ministry and lavished with round-the-clock coverage on Russian state TV.
Spanning the years 1941-45, the film tells the story of Red Army Lieutenant Nikolai Ivushkin’s unlikely attempt to escape a German prisoner-of-war camp in a T-34 tank that he and three other men are tasked with repairing by their Nazi overseers. The fugitives are cornered in a German village near the Czechoslovak border, where an epic tank battle culminates the movie.
The slow-motion projectiles and video-game graphics give the movie a modern feel, and its simple storyline is thin on nuance. According to director Aleksei Sidorov, the aim of the film was to “tell the story of war in a way that appeals to the youth but doesn’t prove controversial among those who still keep the Great Patriotic War [World War II] in their memory,” the Culture Ministry quoted himas saying in a press release.
T-34 | Official HD Trailer (2018) | WORLD WAR II DRAMA | Film Threat Trailers
This time, a formula used in dozens of similar films appears to have finally struck gold. T-34 is the third Russian film devoted to World War II-era tanks since 2012 — but unlike its predecessors, 2012’s White Tiger and 2018’s Tanks, it’s proving a major hit with Russian audiences.
Since its nationwide release on Jan. 1, 2019, the movie has raked in more than a billion rubles, securing the top spot at the Russian box office. More than 4 million theatergoers have seen the film so far, according to stats from the Russian Cinema Fund.
Powerful backing played a role. The producer of T-34 is Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire businessman with Kremlin ties. “For me, T-34 is more than a perfectly conceived adventure flick,” Blavatnik told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017, where the film’s budget was estimated at 600 million rubles (currently million). “My grandfather was a World War II veteran, and that great victory is part of our family lore.”
The war cost the lives of more than 26 million Soviet civilians and military personnel, and is held up as a point of national pride. The memory of the heroic Soviet campaign to oust the German invaders has often been used as fodder in propaganda, a fact noted by film critic Anton Dolin. But in a review for the independent news site Meduza, Dolin argues that T-34 avoids the primitive methods on display in other war movies sponsored by the Russian government.
“I thank the authors for creating a high-budget war blockbuster almost clear of propagandistic and ideological motives,” Dolin writes. “Even the word ‘Stalin’ is mentioned here only once, and in a facetious context. That’s a rarity in our times.”
White Tiger Official Trailer (2014) – Russian World War 2 Tank Movie HD
But T-34 is not completely free of references to contemporary geopolitics, it seems. In the tank battle that opens the movie, a cowardly Ukrainian soldier who gets mouthy with Ivushkin dies, while the tough Belarusian who obeys the lieutenant’s orders remains by the Russian’s side till the happy ending.
The film Tanks, which was released in 2018 and directed by Kim Druzhinin, can be seen as a prequel of sorts to T-34. It tells the story of two T-34 prototypes making their way from Kharkov to Moscow as the Nazi leadership looks for ways to destroy them and preempt the havoc they would soon wreak. The first audience for Tanks, according to Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was servicemen at the Russian-run Khmeimim air base in Syria.
But while Tanks was widely panned by critics and proved a flop at the box office, T-34 has rolled over its competition. Perhaps it’s the lazy January holidays that bring Russians en masse before the screens.
“What could be merrier,” Dolin writes, than “crushing the fascist toad, and then chasing the victory down with mandarins and champagne?”
You’ve got lazy glutes and your knees are paying the price.
The valgus knee collapse, yes, you read that correctly. It’s that brutal-looking event that happens when your glute medius doesn’t know how to pull its weight.
If your knees are caving in when you squat, fix it by focusing on twisting your knees out and engaging the upper outside corner of your glutes AKA your glute medius. For some of you that simple correction will be enough to relieve your knees and clear up any pain.
In between sets of squatting perform 12-15 reps of the glute bridge. Really focus on squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement and keeping your knees pointed out while bridging. This will cue your glutes to stay on when you get back to your sets of squatting.
It’s not always the glutes’ fault; sometimes the hip flexors are just as guilty. The majority of us spend all day sitting down with our psoas muscles and the rest of the hips flexors gang shortened and disengaged. It’s not totally their fault for not taking part in the squat.
By engaging your hip flexors, you’ll find it easier to sit back and down rather than crumbling forward into your knees like you may be doing currently.
Give your hip flexors some resistance between sets with your hands and force them to actively close your hip angle.
If that simple cue doesn’t work for you, use a resistance band to give you some errr…. resistance. Hang it up high and hold onto it with both hands. Then actively pull yourself down into the squat position by engaging your hip flexors.
The box isn’t there to make your life easier. It’s there to help you make the squat as efficient and gainful as possible. Put that box behind you and stick your ass out and back to the box. Just touch it with your butt and stand back up. Don’t linger down there relaxing.
Hit your obliques and rectus abdominis. Chops and ab wheel roll-out will do the trick here. Throw them at the end of any workout and go for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. They will make your core so stable that your knees won’t ever feel the secondary effects of a weak spine ever again.
Only squat once per week. Unless you love squatting or are competing you don’t need to do it more than 1 time a week. You have 3 major lower body movements; the squat, the deadlift, and the hip thrust. There’s no need to squat, especially if your knees bother you.
The popular Netflix show Love, Death & Robots lacks an Oxford comma in the title and gets some details of military service wrong (really wish people would stop having Marines call each other soldier), so you would think a former military journalist would spend the whole time nitpicking it. But it actually portrays vets so well as a whole, that that’s what you walk away thinking about.
Soviet soldiers even get an episode.
(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)
To understand what’s going on here, you need to understand that the series is an anthology, mostly of science fiction stories but with some entries that would more neatly be classified as fantasy. Most of them are animated, and one of the live-action episodes stars Topher Grace, so you’re going to be rooting for the animated portions.
None of the stories directly feed into each other, and the animation styles are all over the place, but the stories that touch on military service are surprisingly good and come at military service with a real understanding of veterans and military lifestyle. The show isn’t about the military, by the way, but about four of the episodes in it are.
(Note, we’re going to avoid spoiling the ends of any of the stories here, but there are spoilers for the starts and second acts of multiple episodes after this disclaimer, like, literally in the next paragraph. If you want to watch the series and you want to see each episode completely fresh, click away.)
The mercenaries continue to make fun of each other even as a centuries-old evil hunts them. Anyone who has patrolled with combat arms soldiers will know this is realistic.
(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)
Take the episode where Marines are bolstered by werewolves. The werewolves are part military working dog, part racially disparaged service members. A lot of the conflict comes from the tension between humans and werewolves, but the moments of bonding come when the Marines lose men and wolves to a Taliban attack and bond together because, regardless of blood, you do not mess with Marines.
Or there’s the story of accidentally freeing Dracula from a centuries-long imprisonment. At least one of the mercenaries guarding the archaeologists is a veteran. Likely, all three of them are. They make fun of the academics and each other, came to the fight well-prepared for conventional attacks, and quickly improvise while fighting Dracula. And no matter how dark their mission gets, they still work through it with a dark, dark sense of humor.
In episode Lucky Number 13, a dropship pilot bonds with an “unlucky” ship that, when treated right, saves the lives of the pilot, the co-pilot, and the Marines who ride aboard her. As the dropship performs better and better, the Marines love her more and more, and protect her as fiercely as she protects them.
Marines casually discuss just how haunted their dropship is as they fly into a hot LZ. “We’re gonna die, right?” “Probably.”
(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)
As mentioned at the top, the series isn’t perfect. The werewolves are offended when senior Marines keep saying they aren’t “real soldiers.” Some of the tactics are sloppy, some of the discipline is nonsense.
But, as a whole, the writers clearly treated their military characters as full humans, worthy of a deep and real look at what fuels them, what lines they would and would not cross, and what motives may have driven them to cross otherwise uncrossable lines.
Even Soviet troops get a deep and respectful depiction as they brave frozen forests in hunt of an ancient evil summoned by the governments past mistakes. Again, there are great moments of dark humor and familiarity with death that are great.
If you have Netflix, there’s a 90 percent chance the service has already suggested the series for you, so just click on it if you want to see what we’re talking about. Just search “Love, Death…” if, somehow, it’s not in your suggested content. It’ll come up quick.
If you don’t have Netflix, well, make your own decisions. The episodes are short, so you can easily binge it in a day. You probably don’t want to buy a month-long subscription for a one-day series.
In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.
What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”
Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.
That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.
In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.
In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)
Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.
Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.
Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.
A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?
This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.
My mind was spinning.
What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?
Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)
The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.
The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”
“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”
“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”
“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”
Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.
My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.
I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.
My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.
They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.
Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump is considering picking Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia who was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, for defense secretary, several sources told The New York Times.
Officials speaking anonymously to the Times said that representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and acting White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had contacted Webb and that his name had been circulating in the White House.
The news comes just days after Patrick Shanahan took over acting defense secretary in the wake of Jim Mattis’ resignation. Picking Webb would forgo a number of hawkish Republican officials who have been floated as potential replacements for Mattis, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham.
Webb, 72, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968. He served in Vietnam in a Marine rifle platoon and as a company commander.
He was wounded twice and received the Navy Cross, which ranks just below the Medal of Honor, for a 1969 engagement in which he sustained wounds while shielding a fellow Marine from a grenade during an assault on enemy bunkers.
Webb appeared to reference that engagement during a 2015 presidential debate, when he and other candidates were asked to name the enemy they were proudest to have made. “I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw their grenade that wounded me,” Webb replied. “But he’s not around right now to talk to.”
After his military service, Webb attended Georgetown Law School, graduating in 1975, and from 1977 to 1981 was a House Committee on Veterans Affairs staff member.
He was widely criticized for a 1979 article titled “Women Can’t Fight,” in which he said recent gains in sexual equality had been “good,” but “no benefit to anyone can come from women serving in combat.”
Webb later changed his views on subject and apologized for the article but has faced backlash for it.
He was appointed assistant secretary of defense by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and in 1987 was made secretary of the Navy. In that position he emphasized fleet modernization and pushed to open more jobs in the service to women. He resigned in 1988.
Webb later switched parties, and in 2006 he won a Senate seat as a Democrat from Virginia.
Webb expressed skepticism about US military campaigns abroad, including a 1990 opinion piece in which he criticized the US military build up in Saudi Arabia ahead of the first Gulf War.
In a 2004 opinion article, Webb analyzed the candidacies of John Kerry and George W. Bush, criticizing both — Kerry for his Vietnam War protests and Bush for committing “arguably … the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory” with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Former Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.
(Webb2016.com / screengrab)
Fifteen years later, Webb had a testy exchange with the younger Bush at a reception for freshmen members of Congress. Webb declined to have a picture taken with Bush, who later approached Webb and asked about the latter’s son, who was a Marine serving in Iraq at the time. Webb reportedly said he was tempted to “slug” the president.
Webb was mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate alongside Barack Obama in 2008, but he said “under no circumstances” would he take the job.
Webb did join the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination for president, but he ended his candidacy in October 2015. A few months later, Webb said he would not vote for 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and added that he had not ruled out voting for Trump.
“This is nothing personal about Hillary Clinton, but the reason I think Donald Trump is getting so much support right now is not because of the racist, you know, et cetera, et cetera, it’s because people are seeing him,” Webb said at the time. “A certain group of people are seeing him as the only one who has the courage to step forward and say we’ve got to clean out the stables of the American governmental system right now.”
Other positions Webb has taken may burnish his appeal to Trump. In summer 2015, he said he was “skeptical” of the Iran nuclear deal signed by President Barack Obama, from which Trump has withdrawn.
During his presidential run, a staff member also said Webb was “his own national security adviser” — which may resonate with Trump, who has touted himself as more knowledgeable than his advisers.
On Dec. 31, 2018, days before The Times reported Webb was under consideration, a number of outlets suggested him to replace Mattis, including the Washington Examiner, a conservative-leaning news outlet, which published an opinion article titled “Trump’s base would love to have Jim Webb as defense secretary.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Izumo (foreground) sails with USS Ronald Reagan during a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea in 2019 (U.S. Navy photo)
At the Japan Maritime United Isogo shipyard in Yokohama, JS Izumo DDH-183 has entered into the process of being converted to a genuine aircraft carrier. Currently designated as a helicopter destroyer, Izumo does not have the capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from her deck. In the first of two main stages of her conversion, coinciding with her regular 5-year refit and overhaul programs, Izumo will receive upgrades to accommodate Japan’s new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.
Following the surrender of the Japanese Empire in WWII, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three aircraft carriers left in its fleet: Hōshō survived the war as a training carrier, Junyō had been damaged during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and was awaiting repairs, and Katsuragi could not be equipped with enough fuel, aircraft, or pilots by the time she was completed in late 1944. Hōshō and Katsuragi would ferry Japanese servicemen back to Japan until 1947 when all three surviving carriers, along with three unfinished carriers, were scrapped.
Article 9 of Japan’s post-war 1947 Constitution renounced war as “a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” As a result, a Japanese Navy could not be formed as a military branch for power projection. Rather, Japan created the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as a branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954. Though the JMSDF is tasked with the naval defense of the Japanese islands, Japan’s partnership with Western countries during the Cold War led its focus on anti-submarine warfare to combat the Soviet Navy.
In 2007, Japan launched two Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers. With their flat-top decks, the Hyūgas were often called Japan’s first aircraft carriers since WWII. However, they were only capable of operating rotary-wing aircraft from their decks and had no launch or recovery capabilities for even VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. Doctrinally, the Hyūgas were used as flagships for anti-submarine operations.
Launched in 2013, Izumo is the lead ship in her class and the replacement for the Hyūgas. Displacing 27,000 long tons fully loaded, Izumo and her sister ship, Kaga DDH-184, are the largest surface combatants in the JMSDF. Like the Hyūgas before, Izumo is a helicopter destroyer that carries rotary-wing aircraft and is tasked with anti-submarine operations. However, in December 2018, the Japanese government announced that Izumo would be converted to operate fixed-wing aircraft in accordance with new defense guidelines.
Japan’s updated defense policy called for a more cohesive, flexible, and multidimensional force in response to growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and the completion of the Shandong, China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier.
Estimated at million, the modifications to Izumo include a cleared and reinforced flight deck to support additional weight, added aircraft guidance lights, and heat-resistant deck sections to allow for vertical landings by F-35Bs. At this time, no specifications have been released regarding a ski-jump, angled flight deck, or catapults.
The first stage of modifications will be evaluated in a series of tests and sea trials following completion. Final modifications in stage two of the ship’s conversion are expected to take place in FY 2025 during the next overhaul and further evaluation. Izumo‘s sister ship, Kaga, will also be converted to an aircraft carrier, though no timeline has been released for her modifications.
The conversion to accept fixed-wing aircraft will provide Izumo and Kaga increased interoperability with allies. As aircraft carriers, they would be able to support not only Japanese F-35Bs, but also American F-35Bs and V-22 Ospreys. During a meeting on March 26, 2019 with General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, the Japanese government asked for guidance and advice on how to best operate F-35Bs from the decks of the future carriers; General Neller said that he would, “help as much as possible.”
On the creation of the new carriers and their joint capabilities, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is quoted as saying, “The Izumo-class aircraft carrier role is to strengthen the air defense in the Pacific Ocean and to ensure the safety of the Self-Defense Force pilots. There may be no runway available for the US aircraft in an emergency.”
The conversion of the helicopter destroyers into aircraft carriers has received some opposition both domestically in Japan and abroad. Some people fear that the new capabilities will be a catalyst for future Japanese military expansion and aggression. Already, the JMSDF is the fourth largest world naval power by tonnage, behind only China, Russia, and the United States. However, the Japanese government remains adamant that the modernization efforts are only meant to bolster the country’s self-defense capability against growing threats from China.
Even though Robin Williams’ now-famous morning greeting doesn’t make people think of the real Adrian Cronauer, it does a pretty good job of representing who Cronauer was at heart. The former airman died at his Virginia home on July 18, 2018, after a long battle with illness.
While Cronauer’s trademark, “Gooooooooood Morning, Vietnam” is really how the airman opened his show on the Armed Forces Vietnam Network during his time in Southeast Asia, he always insisted Williams’ performance in the movie was more Robin Williams than Adrian Cronauer. The film is just loosely based on Cronauer’s account of his deployment, with a few striking similarities.
“If I did half the things he did in that movie, I’d still be in Leavenworth and not England,” Cronauer told Stars and Stripes during a stop at RAF Mildenhall in 2004.
The 1987 film,Good Morning, Vietnam, came to America at a time when Americans were still struggling with the Vietnam War. It was a rare departure from the typically grim tales of loss, excess, and suspected POW sightings.
Adrian Cronauer would end up working in radio and television broadcasting for more than 20 years. After spending many years as a lawyer, Cronauer became special assistant to the director of the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in the Pentagon, the office dedicated to finding the missing from America’s foreign wars.
Ailani Myers wasn’t even three years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an aggressive cancer of the blood. Although her battle is far from over, she and her family are focusing on something else too: saving other children.
Giggett Johnson is the sister of Ailani’s mom, Princecine Johnson, a 23-year veteran of the Navy.
“Ailani was born without complications and was healthy up until her second year, when they came to visit the family in Texas. We noticed she was acting different. She had a rash and an odd spot on her head so we rushed her to the hospital,” Johnson said.
It wasn’t long after that first hospital visit that Ailani received her diagnosis of ALL. The family quickly dove into treating her cancer and tried desperately to find a blood stem cell donor. But there wasn’t one on the registry. One barrier to finding a match that Ailani and many children like her face is being of mixed race. Her mother is black and her father white, which greatly reduced her chances of finding a transplant match.
Without a readily-available match, the family made the decision to bring Ailani to Johns Hopkins. It is one of the world’s leading experts in treating pediatric cancer and specifically doing haploidentical bone marrow transplants — a half-match transplant usually from a mother or father.In part because of her ethnicity, it was her greatest chance at a cure.
Ailani with her dad.
Ailani’s father, Kurt Myers, is an active-duty chief warrant officer in the Navy. The Navy gave the family orders to Fort Meade, Maryland, to allow the family to be close to the hospital. Ailani received a haploidentical transplant from her father in 2019 which was successful. But three days before her one-year transplant anniversary, a scheduled bone marrow biopsy indicated her leukemia had relapsed. Despite the devastating setback, she and her family remain committed to a cure.
Beth Carrion is the family’s Be The Match representative and she is imploring the public to register to be a possible donor, especially those with diverse ethnic backgrounds.
“We have to end the healthcare disparity and bridge that gap. We need help to do that,” Carrion said.
According to the Be The Match website, for over 30 years it has managed the largest and most-diverse marrow registry in the world. In the years since its founding, the nonprofit has helped lead the way for innovative advancements in transplants — and in the process, saved countless lives. But they need more people to register to donate, as there are thousands of children waiting.
Only 20% of patients will actually require a marrow transplant, with most of them being children under 10 years old. The rest desperately need parts of your blood for treatment. Unfortunately, medical television shows have dramatized the process and led potential donors away in fear. The donation is not as painful as it is portrayed in television and you are asleep while they do the procedure.
“I think when people hear the word ‘registry’ they think organ donation and that isn’t what it is. This is just a blood product and your body will replenish it,” Carrion explained.
The giving of blood and blood products is lifesaving. Ailani recently underwent a new treatment called CAR-T cell therapy where her own T-cells were filtered from her blood and re-engineered in a laboratory to target her leukemia. She then had to receive extensive chemotherapy to prepare her body to receive those re-engineered T-cells. Through it all, Ailani has remained positive – even as she continued to lose her hair yet again, something that broke her heart the first time she went through it.
If this treatment is unsuccessful, they will be going with another half-match transplant with her mother.
Although all seemed poised to be heading in the right direction, the family had another setback.
“She fell and scraped her knee and because she was immunocompromised from chemotherapy, she ended up with a fungal infection in the scrape. The fungus disseminated throughout her whole body resulting in several major complications. They had to give her white blood cell transfusions, extensive antifungals, and do surgery to clear the infection,” Carrion shared.
According to Ailani’s aunt, she was terrified when she got up from falling.
“When she fell, she said ‘Uh oh, uh oh. I fell I fell.’ She knew that something devastating could come out of a fall,” she said.
But even with the additional challenges Ailani is facing on top of battling her cancer, she hasn’t lost her happy disposition and sweet personality.
“Sometimes when my sister calls me to tell me how Ailani is, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say other than we’re praying and trying to be strong for her,” Johnson said through tears.
Her family describes Ailani as a fighter, a beacon of light and good. It is their hope that by sharing their story more people will raise their hands and register for Be The Match. Registration is simple, easy and painless. For the potential children matched with prospective donors it’s a scientific miracle. It will also save their lives.
To learn more about how you can register for Be The Match and get your cheek swab, please click here or text “saveailani” to 61474.
The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.
Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.
Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.
In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.
Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.
In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.
Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.
The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.
Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.
Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)
Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.
To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.
Top video game players are currently playing for a pool of almost $25 million’s worth in prizes in a game called DOTA 2, but one event that will take place on the main stage will be the most public display yet of a growing technology that will likely re-shape warfare in the way that the maturation of gunpowder or military aviation once did.
A team of artificial intelligence bots from OpenAI will take on a team of five professional human players and the AI will likely win. It will likely be the closest thing AI gets to a Billy Mitchell bombing the Ostfriesland moment.
The details of the game aren’t super important for this discussion, but you can read about it here if you care. Basically, the game is much more complex than the board games that AIs have been taking on in the last few years, and requires a much more complex system of evaluations and executions to win against humans, especially in team play.
Fans watch the proceedings during the 2014 DOTA 2 invitational.
So, what does this all have to do with war? OpenAI doesn’t exist to win video games. It’s a nonprofit started by big names like Elon Musk in order to advance safe AI (Artificial intelligence restricted to working for the benefit and safety of humans). In fact, most of OpenAI’s projects have nothing to do with video games. They just use DOTA 2 as a flashy way to get and keep people interested in their AI work.
What OpenAI really cares about is fueling breakthroughs in AI research and development for use in everything from managing cities to controlling factories. And while they don’t pursue military research, it’s not hard to see how a computer that can control a mage throwing fireballs across a digital battlefield might be taught how to control cruisers firing artillery shells across the water.
Other researchers have already created an AI that can outperform humans in small aerial dogfights. If an AI created with OpenAI’s deep-learning was aimed at that milestone, it could be expected to take on human opponents within a few months of creation, then win against teams within another year or less, and be able to dominate most human teams soon thereafter.
The U.S. Navy’s unmanned X-47B jet aircraft.
And that’s while we make the computer fly jets designed for humans and if it’s forced to treat its planes as assets it can’t sacrifice. But jets flown by humans don’t need to be constrained by the limits of the human body, meaning they can take tighter turns at higher speeds. And we don’t have to treat losing jets the same as we would losing jets with humans on board. The computer could treat them like DOTA 2 heroes: valuable, but ultimately disposable for the right gain.
And the U.S. and Chinese militaries, among others, know about these advantages of AI, and are pursuing AI technology for just that reason. And it won’t just apply to jets, but also submarines, armored vehicles, and potentially even infantry. After all, OpenAI has helped AIs train each other for controlling human-like bodies in everything from digital sumo matches to high winds.
So it’s easy to imagine that, in the next war, China and America will start turning more and more to their robot partners for help against their enemies, potentially each other.
For at least the next few decades, larger ships will still need human crews, which means that hundreds or thousands of sailors will still be at risk while fighting.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacques-Laurent Jean-Gilles)
But this will create an even more frightening change in warfare than aerial bombing did. Sailors and soldiers will be asked to go forward either knowing that the decision has been made by an unfeeling machine or knowing that there was a chance the decision was made by a machine, and that they will be fighting a mix of machines and humans.
And AIs will likely be better at strategic decisions eventually, but it will still carry an added moral weight for troops knowing that they aren’t executing the will of a senior human, but a robot.
But, of course, it won’t be all bad. In isolated areas with little need for humans to safeguard against collateral damage, entire battles could be fought with little or no human losses.
A U.S. Marine leads a robot on a simulated patrol.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kyle J. O. Olson)
Imagine a few decades into the future, one where robots can control warships and planes, submarines, and anti-aircraft guns. Now imagine the historic Battle of Midway where Japan lost five ships and 292 aircraft while suffering 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost two ships and 145 aircraft while suffering 307 casualties.
Now, combine those two visions, a Battle of Midway where two of the world’s largest navies clash with almost no sailors having to fight at the front. Yes, the ships and planes would still be lost, and control of vast swaths of the world would still be decided by violent clashes, but the human sacrifice would be in the single or double digits.
And the victory for the winner will still be complete. After all, if the U.S. fleet survives at Midway, whether it is crewed by robots or humans, that’s still a physical fleet that can move towards the Japanese home islands.
So, yes, AI will almost certainly revolutionize warfare, and it will happen in the secrecy of classified labs until exploding into the open in a large war.
Until then, if you want to see the progress AI is making, watch the OpenAI Twitter and YouTube streams. Robots may prove their supremacy this week, if only in digital space…
A group of terrorists huddle in a house in an al-Shabab controlled area of Kenya. Among them are high-value individuals who perpetuate terror attacks throughout East Africa. They pray and then rig their suicide vests. Drones overhead beam the scene to allied forces, but time is running out and there is potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties.
The new movie “Eye In The Sky” tackles this scenario. The allied mission commander, British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), orders a U.S. military drone strike on al-Shabab terrorist organizers and would-be suicide bombers, but her call is made more complicated by the fact that a little Kenyan girl (Aisha Takow) will likely be killed in the strike.
The film, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival, shows a unique vision of how calls are made in the heat of battle. From Col. Powell and the drone pilot, 2nd Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) to the highest rungs of the British and American governments, those watching the camera feeds decide the fates of the terrorists and the innocent bystander. They each make their own arguments in turn as the situation evolves.
The film shows a number of thought-provoking moral questions in the microcosm of this one drone strike. It weighs morality against the tactics of modern warfare. The characters try to minimize the damage done by drone strikes while suicide bombers prepare to kill as many people as possible. The film also questions the value of targeted killings over real human intelligence in the war on terror. But the moral calculus has to be figured out in a hurry. The clock is ticking on this potential strike. A decision must be reached before the terrorists are allowed to disappear into the sprawling city to carry out their suicide missions.
“Eye in the Sky” depicts the divide between civilian leaders and the men and women who conduct targeted operations. Civilian leaders want to achieve political goals but dislike the means by which they have to achieve them. The warfighters have to educate elected leaders on weighing the risks of collateral damage while the civilians have to remind the them about the propaganda value of targeted killings for the enemy. Neither side comes away clean as they argue over the fate of civilians who are otherwise going about their daily lives while this international debate unfolds.
The film’s final scene features the late Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role as British Lt. Gen. Frank Benson. In one of his finest moments as an actor, he delivers a harsh rebuke to a civilian Member of Parliament: “Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.”
“Eye In the Sky” is a thrilling nail-biter that also asks questions about the ethics of fighting a high-tech war.
It might seem that women would have it easy when it comes to regulations in the military — I mean, how hard is it to stick your hair in a bun, slip on your boots, and head out the door?
It’s actually pretty restricting once you realize how many regulations are placed on women in the military.
Granted, regulations are nothing new, and everyone has to follow them, but let’s take a look at a few that women in all branches of service have to abide by on a daily basis.
Women’s hair must be professional and steer clear of unnatural colors and eccentric styles. Yes, this means no fad hairstyles, no blinged out barrettes and bobby pins, which makes sense, to an extent. This regulation might be the hardest for women to comply with because the description is so broad and is ultimately up to the interpretation of supervisors to potentially escalate a breach of regulation (“No sir, my hair is not red — it’s Auburn”).
Heck, sometimes it might just be easier to chop it all off like GI Jane (newsflash that’s against regs too, no buzz cuts for women!). Looks like a bun it is!
Nails might seem like a menial regulation to gripe about, but it becomes tedious when supervisors are out to get you for anything that they can. Regulations call for natural nail polish, and the length must be no longer than ¼ of an inch. Imagine being called into a supervisor’s office for your nails being too long or wearing too pink of a polish. It happens to women in the military more often than you would think.
Women must not wear makeup that isn’t flattering to their skin tone or unnatural. Again, this regulation is so broad that it allows for misinterpretation or someone to deem others choice in makeup “unnatural.” Everyone has his or her own opinion of what natural and unnatural makeup looks like, and it’s hard to pin this one down.
Of course, there’s no blue eye shadow or purple eyeliner (duh), but there are many shades that are open to interpretation. Women usually adapt and figure out that no makeup, or close to no makeup, is the best way to stay out of trouble in this area.
1. Nametag/ Ribbon Rack Alignment
Nametag and ribbon rack alignment might be one of the most annoying regulations of them all. Men have pockets on their formal shirts to align their nametag and ribbon rack perfectly. Women don’t get pockets on their formal button-down shirts, and it makes it almost impossible to align because of the nuisance of, well, boobs.
Every woman has them and some more than others, which makes uniform wear, and abiding by small details frustrating. Women usually go to the lengths of sewing dots onto their shirts once they find the perfect alignment, because who knows if they’ll ever find that sweet spot again!
Props to all the women in the military who put up with these regulations and don’t let the details impede on their work performance, even though they might want to say shove it to their supervisors when they get called out for their eyelash extensions or the length of their fingernails.
Hundreds of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, Army veterans, Pittsburgh-area officials, and Army leaders recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his heroism April 5, 2019 — 16 years to the day after he was killed in action while serving in Iraq.
Booker’s mother and sister were presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, during a ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — near the University of Pittsburgh — as family, fellow soldiers, city officials and veterans watched.
“I am so honored … I am so proud of all my son accomplished,” said Freddie Jackson, Booker’s mother. “I didn’t realize how much my son did and how he inspired other people. Steve died for his country, not just for the Booker Family,” she said.
Booker died on April 5, 2003, while serving as a tank commander with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 34-year-old Apollo, Penn., native was killed in action near Baghdad while serving in Iraq during the “Thunder Run” mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Booker attended Apollo-Ridge High School, near Pittsburgh, and enlisted in the Army in June 1987, at age 19, shortly after his high school graduation. He was promoted to Army staff sergeant in February 2001 and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, left, deputy commanding general of Forces Command, speaks in Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross to Freddie Jackson, right, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his 2003 heroism while serving in Iraq.
(Photo by Mr. Paul Boyce)
“We’re here to honor his service, his sacrifice and his heroism … as well as his Family” said U.S. Army Forces Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson. “He gave his life for something bigger than himself; he gave his life for others. He’s a Pittsburgh hero, an Army hero and an American hero.”
Richardson attended Friday’s ceremony along with 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and two retired Army generals. Army and Air Force cadets from the University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program participated and attended as well.
Veterans of Booker’s unit also travelled from across the United States to attend the medal-presentation ceremony, organized by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. The Army ceremony honored Booker for his heroic actions, personal dedication, and commitment to his fellow soldiers.
Booker’s platoon led a task force on April 5, 2003, along Highway 8 towards Bagdad International Airport. About 1.2 miles after the line of departure, the platoon came under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy forces. Booker immediately communicated the situation to his chain of command, encouraged his crew, and returned fire with his tank-mounted machinegun.
“When both his and his crew’s machineguns malfunctioned, Booker, with total disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself by lying in a prone position on top of the tank’s turret and accurately engaged the enemy forces with his personal weapon,” according to the award’s summary. “While exposed, he effectively protected his platoon’s flank and delivered accurate information to his command during a critical and vulnerable point of the battle.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker.
Booker’s “fearless attitude and excitement over the communications network inspired his platoon to continue the attack and assured them and leadership that they would defeat the enemy and reach their objective safely,” the award’s narrative explains. “As he remained exposed, Booker identified an enemy troop carrier which was attempting to bypass his tank, but within seconds engaged the enemy vehicle and destroyed it prior to the enemy troops dismounting. Along the five-mile route he remained exposed and continued to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire until he was mortally wounded.”
Army Col. Andrew Hilmes, Booker’s former company commander in Iraq, said the heroic staff sergeant prepared his crew well for that day’s battle. “His ability to train his soldiers saved a lot of lives. Not just his actions on April 5, but the training he put his soldiers through prior to the 5th of April paid off for the unit.”
Booker’s sister echoed their mother’s comments during a media conference attended by Pittsburgh-area news media prior to the awards ceremonies, which included a plaque dedication in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial’s Hall of Valor. “He’d be very proud. He’d probably be pumping his chest right about now,” said Booker’s sister Kim Talley-Armstead. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but we are extremely proud.”
After giving careful consideration and reviewing the recommendations from the Senior Army Decorations Board, Army officials said, the Secretary of the Army made the determination that Staff Sgt. Booker be awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. In recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty, 12 soldiers recently received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for their valor.
Previously recognized for their bravery by awards of the Silver Star, the Department of Defense upgraded the soldiers’ medals as part of a 2016-2018 comprehensive review of commendations for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four soldiers are still on active duty; three are posthumous awards; three recipients have since retired and two recipients previously separated from the Army.