COVID-19: One Iranian 'dying every 10 minutes'; Romania urges expats to stay away - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.

“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.

“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.

Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.

With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.

The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.

“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.

Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.

Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.

Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.

Georgia

The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.

“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.

Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.

“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.

Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.

They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.

The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.

Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.

One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.

No deaths have been reported so far.

However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.

The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.

Ukraine

Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.

Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.

Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.

As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.

Russia

Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.

The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.

Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”

Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.

A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.

It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.

Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.

Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.

The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.

Serbia

Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.

However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.

Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.

“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”

The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.

Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.

The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.

Pakistan

Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.

Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.

Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.

Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.

A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.

He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”

Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.

On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.

Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.

The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.

The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.

Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.

The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.

In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.

Armenia

A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.

It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.

Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.

Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.

Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.

The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.

The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.

“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.

Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.

“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.

Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.

Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.

Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.

According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.

All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.

Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.

In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.

Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.

Afghanistan

The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.

“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.

“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.

About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”

Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.

The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.

Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.

So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how one Marine balances the reserves and a day job with the Air Force

Life in the military is a path not many people take, and even fewer take the road of becoming a U.S. Marine. The military in general has many challenges that service members learn to face throughout their career. Those challenges include going to school, taking care of their family and performing their military occupation specialties simultaneously, while also participating in exercises or preparing for deployments.


For Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, learning how to balance his family, military career, civilian careerand training exercises while also managing to have time to help out his community is a top priority.

“It’s harder for the Reserve Marines,” Kirby said. “We balance full-time jobs, a family, college and also being a Marine. You’re going high speed on all of it and you want to be the best at what you are doing in your civilian career, the Marine Corps and your family.”

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Rubio, an inspector-instructor communication chief for 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, vouches for Kirby’s capability to uphold his responsibilities within the United States Marine Corps. Kirby’s civilian career has never interfered with his performance as a Marine, he said.

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away
Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, poses for a photo in front of a Humvee during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017. Kirby was preparing for an upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez

Hard Worker

“He is a very intelligent human being,” Rubio said. “He has been at this unit as a radio operator for the longest time and knows how to get the job done. He is very proficient at his [military specialty]. Because he’s such a hard worker, I don’t have to micromanage him. He knows how to get the job done, regardless of what the mission is.”

After completing his monthly drills, Kirby returns to his civilian career as an aircraft pneudraulic systems mechanic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where is responsible for equipment maintenance and operational and functional checks on aircraft.

The Marine Corps has helped Kirby to stand out above his peers by developing the skills needed to becoming a better leader, he said.

“All the principles and values of the Marine Corps are brought into my civilian life,” Kirby said. “The Marine Corps will set you above everyone else.”

Regardless of the amount of work and responsibility present on his daily routine, he has adapted and became proficient at multitasking. He manages to exceed at his obligations and even find some extra time for himself, but he says he doesn’t spend his free time watching television or relaxing alone.

Also Read: Marine Reservist protects family from attacker

Instead, Kirby said, he is constantly involved in volunteer work. He has helped on rescue operations in the aftermath of tornados and he’s an active participant in the Toys for Tots program.

Kirby has been participating in exercises to prepare himself for a deployment early next year.

“He has been waiting for this deployment for as long as he has been here, and I’m glad that he is one of the Marines that is going,” Rubio said. “If he wasn’t going, the Marines would have a hard time accomplishing or understanding the communication side.”

Even with his service to the Marine Corps, deployment, work as a mechanic and volunteer hours, Kirby said he wants to go back to school to finish his education.

“I plan on going back to school after my deployment,” he said. “I want to go back and go into mechanical or aerospace engineering. I think that it would help me in my career as a tinker.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time you know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.

Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.

While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.


But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.

Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”

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Krista Anderson and her sons pose for a photo in 2014.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler)

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.

How to honor Veterans Day

Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.

How to honor Memorial Day

Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The United States Marine Band on Memorial Day.

(Photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)

You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.

Attend a memorial service at a national cemetery. Run or walk a mile to benefit the non-profit Krista Anderson started in memory of her husband, and then pledge your mile for wear blue: run to remember.

Talk to your kids about sacrifice, about service and about what this three-day weekend really means. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. Monday with a minute of silence.

And then, like Krista said, live.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

US government places sanctions against Syrian chemists after attack

The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.


In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.

The attack left 87 dead, including many children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun, provoking outrage in the West, which accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being responsible.

The sanctions will freeze all assets in the United States belonging to the 271 individuals on the blacklist, and block any American person or business from dealing with them.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based think tank, the SSRC is Syria’s leading scientific research center, with close links to the country’s military.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Military grade’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”

The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?

Well… no.


COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The military actually employs thousands of people to maintain and repair “military grade” equipment.

(Photo By: Master Sgt. Benari Poulten 80th Training Command Public Affairs)

The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.

The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.

It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

Believe it or not, this is not how Marines test new gear.

(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel)

For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.

But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.

Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Celebrations kick off with Marine Corps birthday run

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black led a motivational run on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Nov. 5, 2019. The run was held in celebration of the Marine Corps’ upcoming 244th birthday.

The Marines ran from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to the Marine Corps War Memorial where Berger and Black shared some motivation with the Marines.

The run began a week of celebration leading up to the birthday on Nov. 10, 2019.


“Having one day to celebrate the birthday is not good enough,” said the commandant. “We have to have a whole week.”

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Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black join Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall Marines during the 2019 Marine Corps birthday run in Arlington, Va., Nov. 5, 2019.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Morgan Burgess)

Berger then asked Marines to do three things this week. First, to stop and remember all those that have come before them. Second, to celebrate with their Marine Corps family. Finally, to look ahead at where they are going, because the Corps exists to fight and to win.

After the run, there was a moment of silence to honor all those who are forward deployed and all those that have come before them, as well as one final loud war cry that echoed across the base.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.


Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.

Following that engagement, a US aircraft downed a pro-regime drone that was dropping bombs near coalition troops.

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.

The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.

US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)

The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.

The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.

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Christopher Woody/Google Maps

Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.

On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.

Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for an aerial change of command ceremony. Photo courtesy of US Navy

The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”

The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.

June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.

The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.

ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.

Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.

But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.

Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.

“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”

Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.

Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”

“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.

Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warns of Russian hacking group’s attempts to gain ‘dream access’ to computer systems

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.

“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”


The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.

The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.

The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”

Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.

The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.

The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.

It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This soldier risked everything to save his friend in Tal Afar

Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.


“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”

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Villalobos in Iraq.
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)

Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.

So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.

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(AARP Studios)

Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.

The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .

Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.

The enemy melted away.

Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.

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U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe.

Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.

“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”

Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.

“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.

Articles

13 Funniest military memes for the week of March 10

It was a hectic week, what with revelations that Rangers are in Syria, radioactive boars in Japan, and as-holes taking nude photos everywhere.


For a quick break from the insanity, check out these 13 funny military memes.

1. Sorry, first sergeant, we’re all busy looking for hiding spots (via Military Memes).

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Unfortunately, some of us didn’t find our spots in time.

2. You were my boss and an as-hole. Look elsewhere for buddies (via Pop smoke).

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Go tell Army stories to your cousins or something.

ALSO SEE: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

3. Coast Guard is going to be looking for a lot of lifehacks in the next few years (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Maybe you guys can buy your way into the DoD or something?

4. The coveted “pace and distance” profile protects from all formation runs (via Lost in the Sauce).

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You can still run 10 miles if you want, but only if you want.

5. Why are the machines doing all the heavy work?

(via Maintainer Nation)

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In machine circles, all humans are nonners.

6. Aging pretty well for a Devil Dog (via Imgflip).

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Only 10 more years to 50% retirement.

7. The only bad thing about this is the red, mirrored sunglasses (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Bet the Coast Guard is just jealous that they aren’t in the Paw Patrol.

8. Yeah, but earning compensation days is rarely worth it (via Air Force Nation).

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Unless it turns a normal weekend into a 3-day.

9. Army logic isn’t logic (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

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In other news, no more eating in the dining facility.

10. But if you can’t do your guard shifts, you can’t keep your fire watch ribbon (via The Salty Soldier).

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Looks like someone is losing a piece of chest candy.

11. If you had brought a dang-ole bayonet, you might be able to fight your way out of this (via Pop smoke).

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Should’ve joined a real military.

12. Just remember: On V-A day, everything hurts (via The Salty Soldier).

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We’re not saying cheat to get free Veterans Affairs money, but don’t downplay anything, either.

13. Pretty sure that “missing specialist” just faked his death for an early discharge and huge life insurance payout (via The Salty Soldier).

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But don’t investigate too hard or the E-4 mafia will disappear you for real.

Articles

Elite Marine Raiders were among those killed in tragic C-130 crash

For an elite band of US Marines known as the Raiders, the fiery military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years. Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died July 10 on their way to training exercises, linking them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.


The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror — making it the newest of the military’s counterterrorism forces that also include the Army’s Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.

The Raiders’ command now has about 2,700 troops, including those in intelligence and support roles, according to spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler.

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Photo from USMC

Tragedy also struck the close-knit command in March 2015 when seven of its Marines died with four soldiers in a helicopter crash during training off Florida. Mannweiler said he knows of no other significant training losses in the decade-long existence of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. At least 31 members of MARSOC have died in combat, Mannweiler said.

The Marines killed this week were headed to Yuma, Arizona, with guns, ammunition, radios, and body armor to participate in training for an eventual deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Mannweiler said such pre-deployment training in the desert would have likely ranged from urban combat to language skills.

Mannweiler said the Raiders’ flight aboard a Marine Corps Reserve airplane wasn’t an unusual arrangement because the command doesn’t have its own planes.

“Marine Corps aircraft are always our personal preference,” Mannweiler said in an interview. “We’ll catch a ride however it makes the most sense.”

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A ceremony commemorating 11 fallen service members lost in March 2015 crash. USMC photo by Cpl. Steven Fox.

Mannweiler said the crash in Mississippi will be felt acutely in the tight-knit group of Marine Raiders and their families.

“This is a closed-loop community,” he said. “The loss of seven Marines from a battalion literally impacts the entire organization.”

The Raider name was made famous by World War II Marine units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations that were dramatized in books and movies such as “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.

The original Marine Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider leaders studied unconventional warfare tactics and were credited with beating larger Japanese forces on difficult terrain in the Pacific. Their name wasn’t used in an official capacity by the Marine Corps for decades after World War II.

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Marine Raiders, 1944. Photo from US National Archives.

When the Raider name was re-adopted in 2015, the Marine Corps said the moniker offered its elite personnel special shorthand similar to Army Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.

While the training has some similarities to special units in the Army and Navy, retired Navy officer Dick Couch wrote in a 2015 book that members of MARSOC are known for their marksmanship and maturity, when compared with other branches’ elite. In “Always Faithful, Always Forward,” Couch wrote that he was “in awe” of how the Marines Corps needed so little time to develop an effective training program to make its “brotherhood within a brotherhood” ready for combat.

“They’re an excellent addition to the special operations mix,” Couch said in a phone interview July 12. “I’m sorry to see they lost some people. They’re in a risky business. It can happen in training or in combat.”

MIGHTY GAMING

‘Assassin’s Creed’ offers surprising help in Notre Dame restoration

As images of flames engulfing the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral began spreading on April 15, 2019, Maxime Durand initially thought it was a hoax.

“It really took me a full day to put words to the feelings that I had regarding this,” Durand told Business Insider in a phone interview on April 17, 2019.

Notre-Dame is personal to Durand. He’s the historian in charge of overseeing historical representations in the blockbuster “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, and he spent four years overseeing the creation of “Assassin’s Creed Unity” — a game set during the French Revolution that contains a stunningly accurate depiction of Notre-Dame Cathedral as its centerpiece.


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(Ubisoft)

“I think a lot of my colleagues joined me in that same feeling where we didn’t know how to react precisely,” he said. “Our first thought wasn’t on ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ until we started seeing the reaction from the fans who started playing again and sharing reactions on social networks. That really surprised us.”

In the following days, the French game developer and publisher behind the “Assassin’s Creed” games, Ubisoft, pledged half a million Euros to rebuilding efforts.

The company also offered its expertise, which makes a lot of sense: Two Ubisoft staffers spent “over 5,000 hours” researching Notre-Dame Cathedral, inside and out.

“Because this is ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ players are able to climb over and go everywhere on the monument, so we have to make sure that the details would be well done,” Durand said. “Because [Notre-Dame Cathedral] was the most iconic monument that we had for ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity,’ obviously we really wanted to put in all the efforts to make sure that it was really, really beautiful but also representative of the monument.”

Exploring Notre Dame – Assassin’s Creed Unity

www.youtube.com

That said, because of the fact that “Assassin’s Creed Unity” was developed between 2010 and 2014, Ubisoft wasn’t yet using 3D mapping technology to recreate monuments. Fans hoping that Ubisoft has detailed blueprints of the cathedral may be disappointed to learn that this isn’t the case.

“I’ve seen some comments this week of people mentioning that we probably sent an army of drones to scan the whole monument back in these days,” Durand said. “Reality is that photogrammetry — the ability to scan monuments — was technology that we added later in the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise, on ‘Assassin’s Creed Origins,’ actually.”

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If Egypt needs help rebuilding an ancient pyramid, Ubisoft is ready — that isn’t the case for Notre-Dame Cathedral, unfortunately.

(Ubisoft)

“Back then we really relied on pictures — photos, videos — of modern day Notre-Dame,” Durand said. Ubisoft does have “a huge database” of information on the cathedral, and that could no doubt help in the rebuilding effort, but Durand is skeptical that the French government will come asking.

“I’d be very surprised if the architects that will work on the spire will actually engage us in participating,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Humor

7 of the top ways the military ages you

Much like dogs, it is said that servicemen and women age at seven times the rate of civilians while on active duty.


Long hours, high standards, and a constantly combat-ready mindset are key factors in this unpublished (read: not real) scientific study that has been conducted by the subjects themselves for over 243 years.

Not convinced? Well, as they say, “the proof is in the pudding,” and what follows is evidence that cannot be denied.

1. Growing gray hair.

There really isn’t too much needed to qualify this statement. Serving in the military will give you gray hair due to the crazy stress service members face during their time in uniform.

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A 24-year-old Sgt. after two deployments (Photo by Sgt. Jacob H. Harrer)

2. Making awful noises when standing up.

All branches are included, but we’re highlighting Army and Marine Corps infantry specifically on this one.

Humping heavy packs, digging fighting positions, sleeping outdoors, and sprinting in full battle rattle has left these once-youthful specimens grunting like f*cking elephants any time they try to stand from a seated position.

3. Complaining about kids today.

Deploying overseas can sometimes make it seem like time stands still. You get no new music and you have limited contact with the outside world as pop culture grows and transforms.

This, combined with the mass re-prioritization of values that happens during basic, cultivates some condescending views towards civilians of the same generation.

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Accurate. (Image via Terminal Lance)

4. Talking about the good ol’ days.

It’s been said that you must earn your happy memories through hard times. The greater the shared hardship with friends, the happier the memories when reminiscing about it later.

There is no shortage of shared hardship while in good company in the military, so a group of veteran 20-somethings getting together and sharing war stories from the “good ol’ days” is not uncommon.

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Just a couple of buddies (Photo by Airman 1st class Alexis C. Schultz)

5. Enjoying black coffee and quiet mornings.

It’s just nice to wake up an hour or so before you need to and enjoy some peace and quiet with a cup of joe.

Most people don’t fully understand this majesty until they are well into their fifties, but sleeping in the field is generally uncomfortable, so appreciating the joys waking up early and having hot coffee is instilled in troops at a much younger age.

6. Talking about driving directions and the weather.

This bleeds over from route selection and weather statuses with regard to mission accomplishment.

It becomes a habit to ensure that when you’re going and how you’re getting there is planned appropriately and military members love discussing these tactics — even if it’s at a BBQ with some beers and buddies.

7. Reading books about war.

People like to read about things that apply to them — subjects they relate to. So, it comes as no surprise that books about war are of interest to the GWOT generation.

That and the exploits of our fathers and grandfathers always seems more badass because of the lack of technologies we are blessed with today.