Marines manning an entry control point tasked with managing the flow of ambulances heading for the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship deployed to New York City, ran to the aid of COVID-19 patients whose lives were in danger as their oxygen tanks began to run low in traffic.
On a fairly busy night, the Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment that are tasked with security for the Comfort may deal with an inbound ambulance every thirty minutes. But on April 7, shortly after midnight, they received a urgent call. A nearby hospital was evacuating, and would be sending patients in a convoy of 10 ambulances at once.
Despite being after midnight, the physical limitations of New York traffic and the pier created a traffic bottleneck that slowed the ambulances ability to offload their patients, and as the Marines redirected traffic to allow the most desperate a clear path to the Mercy, it soon became clear that managing the traffic situation wouldn’t be enough.
When a patient in the fourth ambulance in line began to deteriorate as their oxygen tank ran low, the Marines halted all traffic onto the pier, allowing the ambulance to maneuver out of the melee and directly toward the comfort, saving as much as 15 minutes when literal seconds could mean the difference between life and death.
“Us being infantry Marines, we’re all trained in Combat Lifesaver/Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” Marine Sgt. Austin Loppe said after the fact.
“You need oxygen to survive. And even just going a couple minutes without oxygen, the human brain starts losing function and having permanent brain damage for life.”
Loppe’s Marines from Lima company had no time to celebrate, however, as just ten minutes later they received another urgent call. The ambulance at the back of the pack had a patient that was now also running out of oxygen. The Marines jumped into action, redirecting the flow of traffic and getting that ambulance to the front of the line, but as they averted that disaster, an unsettling realization began to set in. It wouldn’t be long before each of these ambulances were out of oxygen, and as a result, patients stuck waiting could suffer brain damage or even die.
“So that wasn’t something that myself or any of my Marines were willing to let happen to an American citizen,” Loppe said.
Navy medical personnel moved quickly to provide additional oxygen tanks which Marines working on the pier picked up and sprinted hundreds of meters to the entry control point (ECP). From there, the Marines manning the ECP grabbed the tanks and took off for the ambulances, distributing them to the medical staff on board each.
USNS Comfort during its voyage to New York City.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Q. Hightower)
Despite the strength of both body and will the Marines had on display that evening, they were unwilling to accept the lion’s share of the credit. LCpl. Colton Flach from Green Camp, Ohio was among the Marines on the pier that night, but he’s quick to credit the Navy and New York City police for their hand in helping to save the patients.
“They’re with us 24-7 on post,” Flach said. “And the moment that we had got that call, I knew that I could count on them to be able to do whatever I needed them to do, and we would do whatever we could to help them as well to get these patients the medical attention that they needed as fast as possible.”
The Marines have played an active role in the Defense Department’s efforts to both bolster governmental responses and ongoing inter-service efforts in places like Guam, where U.S. Navy sailors have been evacuating from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt due to the spread of the coronavirus on board.
The Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment tasked with security for the USNS Comfort did not wait for orders from higher or for a solution to be presented from others. Instead, they utilized small unit leadership, a skill of significant emphasis within the Corps, to rapidly make command decisions that saved lives.
“It’s kind of hard to put in words. It’s immensely humbling to observe the Marines and actions that small-unit leaders are making, rapid decisions on their own without any sort of tasking or supervision,” Marine Capt. Peter Hofinga, the company commander for Lima Company, said.
“Despite the fact that this is not really in their typical task group, or what they trained to do, they are able to operate within that friction and chaos to help both the Navy-Marine Corps team overall as well as New York City residents.”
Those mad bois over at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency are at it again. This time, they want to create a system that would let you eat your own trash, and to be honest, you’d probably like it. (The system, not the taste.)
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10, 2008, at Balad Air Base, Iraq.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
Right now, the U.S. military either carts out or burns much of its trash, depending on security and environmental factors. This is resource-intensive for a force, especially during missions that are already logistically strained like special operations, expeditionary task forces, and disaster response.
But that means that the military has to burn fuel to bring supplies in on trucks, then use more fuel to cart out the trash or burn it. If the trash can be recycled locally instead, especially if it can be turned into high-need items like fuel, lubricants, food, or water, it could drastically cut down on the logistics support that troops need.
And that’s why DARPA wants you to eat your own trash. Not because they find it funny or anything, but because macronutrients can be pulled out of trash and re-fed to troops to supplement their diets.
A DARPA graphic shows how a military force’s trash and forage could be fed through a system to create organic products like fuel and food.
And that leads us to ReSource, a new program under DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. It’s led by Program Manager Blake Bextine, and he said in a press release that, “In a remote or austere environment where even the basics for survival can’t be taken for granted, there can be no such thing as ‘single use.'”
A successful ReSource system will be capable of completing three main processes: breaking down mixed waste, including recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics; reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and recovering purified, usable products. In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption.
Spc. Mary Calkin, a member of the Washington State National Guard, takes a plate of food at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.
(U.S. Army photo Joe Lacdan)
Operators would feed waste into the system and then select what supplies were most valuable to them at the time. Need food? Well, it sounds like you’re getting a paste, but at least you’ll have something to keep you going. But when there is plenty of MREs or locally sourced food to go around, commanders could opt for fuel for generators and lubricants for equipment.
And there’s no reason that the feedstock would necessarily be limited to strictly trash. After all, a bunch of tree branches may not be edible for troops, but the ReSource setup might be able to extract the nutrients and create something that troops could consume, maybe with a lot of spices.
Systems would range in size depending on what is needed, potentially as small as a man-portable system for small teams but going as high as a shipping container that could support much larger operations. Ideally, no specialists would be needed to run the system. Troops don’t need to know how the system works; they just feed waste in and take supplies out.
It’s a new DARPA program, meaning that DARPA is looking for researchers to bring ideas and nascent technologies to the table for consideration.
Their Proposers Day meeting for ReSource will take place on August 29 in Phoenix.
US Naval Forces Central Command said last Wednesday that 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats “conducted dangerous and harassing approaches,” repeatedly crossing the bows and sterns of the US ships.
At one point, the US said, one of the Iranian boats closed to within 10 yards of a Coast Guard cutter.
The US military said that the US vessels issued multiple warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio and sounded their horns but that the Iranian boats did not respond for about an hour.
After responding, the Iranian vessels moved away from the American ships.
The Navy said in a statement last week that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy had committed “dangerous and provocative actions” that “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision.”
At the time of the incident, the Navy expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller, the destroyer Paul Hamilton, and the patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, together with the Coast Guard cutters Wrangell and Maui, were carrying out joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the Persian Gulf.
The US military, according to a separate recent statement, has been letting US Army helicopters take off from Navy ships in exercises meant to boost “the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats,” such as the gunboats Iran routinely sends out to harass both military and commercial vessels.
In its statement following last week’s run-in with Iranian forces, US Naval Forces Central Command concluded by saying that “US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”
Insider reached out the Navy and US Central Command for comment but was redirected to the White House, which did not comment on the president’s tweet.
As the wind swept through the tall green grass in an open field on the Ie Shima coast line, a group of Marines stood in anticipation as they watched a bundle soar across the bright sky. Guided by the Joint Precision Air Drop System, the package piloted itself onto the drop zone.
U.S. Marines with Air Delivery Platoon, Landing Support Company, 3rd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, conducted air delivery operations with JPADS on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan June 6, 2019.
“Today we are conducting air delivery training using the Joint Precision Air Drop System,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Mulvey, the battalion commander of 3rd TSB. “What’s unique about our training today is that we coupled with the MV-22 Osprey. We are using the speed and distance of the Osprey with the precision air drop capability of the JPADS to really offer the warfighter sustainment.”
The JPADS is an airdrop system that uses prepared geographic coordinates programmed into a computer system to guide the parachute to the ground within 100 meters of the drop zone.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Dustin Murphy, left, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Bird, right, conduct military free fall operations June 6, 2019 on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan Harvey)
“The JPADS use a GPS to basically do what a free fall parachutist would do,” said Mulvey, a Cherryville, North Carolina native. “It understands the altitude and wind speed and it drives the parachute like a free fall parachutist would, the only difference is that it’s delivering cargo to Marines on the deck.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sheldon Ford prepares for a static line jump June 6, 2019 on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan Harvey)
The JPADS allow 3rd TSB to drop cargo away from the enemy threats and guide it to the Marines on the ground not only making it more accurate, but also allowing Marines to recover the cargo faster.
U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, land at a drop zone on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan June 6, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Fike)
Mulvey said the training was a big step forward for III Marine Expeditionary Force because it wasIE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan — As the wind swept through the tall green grass in an open field on the Ie Shima coast line, a group of Marines stood in anticipation as they watched a bundle soar across the bright sky. Guided by the Joint Precision Air Drop System, the package piloted itself onto the drop zone.
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Paul Konicki returns to an MV-22 Osprey after a military free fall training June 6, 2019 on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan.
(U.S Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan Harvey)
“This mission is not possible without the help of the entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force with the professional pilots and the crew of the Air Combat Element,” said Mulvey. “I’m very happy from the performance of the air delivery specialists of LS Co., the roughriders are great, I’d jump with them any day.” the first time they had dropped cargo utilizing the JPADS from an MV-22 Osprey.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.
First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.
The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.
Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.
Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.
Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.
Rapid Target Acquisition
“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”
Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.
“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”
Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.
A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.
In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.
“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.
Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.
Steep Learning Curve
At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.
Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.
Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.
“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.
Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.
“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”
Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”
A Family of Sights
The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.
The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.
Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.
More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.
Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.
For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.
“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”
The Vanscoyk family in Yuma, Arizona. All photos by Kayla Mattox Photography.
Family first, mission always.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.
The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.
“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.
Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.
“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.
Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.
“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.
Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.
“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.
“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.
Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.
“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.
The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.
“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.
Russia has rebooted one of three computers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after a malfunction was detected.
Dmitry Rogozinthe head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, wrote on Twitter on Nov. 8, 2018, that the computer’s operations had been restored.
“At 12:04:50 Moscow time, the central computer on the ISS was rebooted. The three-channel configuration was restored,” Rogozin tweeted.
On Nov. 6, 2018, Roskosmos said that one of the three computers on the station’s Russian module malfunctioned, but gave assurance that the defect had no impact on the safety of the crew aboard the ISS — American Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev, and German Alexander Gerst.
Dmitry Rogozinthe head of Russian space agency Roskosmos.
The malfunction followed last month’s aborted launch of a new station crew. U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin landed safely after their Russian booster rocket failed two minutes into the Oct. 11, 2018 flight.
The next crew, Oleg Kononenko (Russia), Anne Charlotte McClain (United States), and David Saint-Jacques (Canada), was initially scheduled to be sent to the ISS in late December 2018, but that launch was rescheduled after the Oct. 11, 2018 accident.
Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.
Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.
Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.
“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.
According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”
Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.
“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”
That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.
Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.
“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.
Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
Dr. Heather Shangold.
Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”
Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”
Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You’re going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You’ll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you’ll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It’s the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can’t afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can’t afford to pay someone to watch your kids?
Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to 0 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.
AER’s assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper’s plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.
The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to id=”listicle-2645026519″,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. “The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families,” said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. “Let’s say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don’t automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost.”
AER’s CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of 5 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.
AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses.”Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army,” Gen. Mason said. “Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station.”
Turkey and the US-backed YPG forces — which have been helping the coalition fight ISIS in Syria — have been clashing off and on since at least April.
At the end of that month, the two sides exchanged rocket fire, which Turkey says killed 11 YPG fighters. In early July, Turkey deployed troops to the Kurdish-held border in northwest Syria, which the YPG commander called “a declaration of war.”
YPG and Turkish-backed rebels — who the YPG call mercenaries — clashed in northwest Syria on July 17, Reuters reported. The YPG said it killed three Turkish-backed rebels and wounded four more.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and extension of the PKK, which has been trying to set up its own Kurdish state within Turkey for decades. And the US has placed itself right between the two sides.
Turkey is the third-largest purchaser of US weapons, and in early May, the US began supplying weapons to the YPG to help in the coalition’s fight against ISIS.
The latter move has angered Turkey even more than the US’s unwillingness to extradite Fethullah Gulen, according to Kemal Kirisci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Gulen is a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and has been accused by Turkey of organizing the attempted coup in 2016.
These developments have coincided with Turkey’s gradual drift toward Russia. Ankara and Moscow recently agreed to build a pipeline through Turkey, which allows Moscow to bypass Ukraine, and last week, Turkey signed an agreement with Russia for the $2.5 billion purchase of Moscow’s advanced S-400 missile-defense system.
Turkey is also one of the three guarantors, along with Russia and Iran, of the Syrian de-escalation zones.
Kirisci told Business Insider that he can’t prove there is a direct connection between Turkey moving closer to Russia and the US supplying the YPG with weapons, but he did say, “You don’t need to be escorted to a village that you can see in the distance.”
“[Turkey] has been pissed off at the US for a long time,” Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider. “They’re not leaving NATO, but they’re trying to show everyone that they have options.”
Stein added that “the US is partly to blame” for increased tensions between Turkey and YPG, but, he said, “all sides have blood on their hands in this thing.”
Kirisci also said that “the Pentagon is running its own show,” and the US State Department doesn’t appear to be checking its decisions.
“We are concerned [about increased tensions between Turkey and YPG] but doing everything we can to defuse the situation,” Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.
Rankine-Galloway said that the weapons, which are tracked with serial numbers, will be collected from the YPG after the fight with ISIS concludes.
But Kirisci and Stein both said they were doubtful that the US will be able to collect the weapons from the YPG. “They’ll try, but it won’t happen,” Stein said.
It’s “to be determined” if a full-scale war will break out between Turkey and the YPG once the fight against ISIS is over, Stein said. The US probably won’t leave northwest Syria for a while, and its presence will help deter fighting between the two sides.
The skirmishes that have happened between Turkey and the YPG have happened in areas where there is no US troop presence.