U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.


The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.

The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.

SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.

Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.

Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.

The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.

In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.

Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.

Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.

The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.

It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.

SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.

Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.

In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.

As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.

The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”


India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.

Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.

India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya

India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.

India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.

The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.

India sees the S-400 as a way to increase its air defenses, especially amid its growing rivalry with China. But its purchase has been an issue for Washington.

Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”

India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.

“The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.

Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.

“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.

“Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

China was the first foreign country to receive the S-400, but Turkey has also acquired it, adding to tensions with its NATO partners, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar also reportedly considering purchasing it.

Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.

US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”

While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this awesome time-lapse of an F-15 paint job

This may be the coolest paint job a military jet has ever had. It’s a special variation for an F-15E Strike Eagle. Airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base did the job.


The paint job commemorates the Wing’s 75th anniversary. The Fighter Group was activated in 1942 during WWII. Since then, the group has flown nine types of aircraft and destroyed 1,500 enemy aircraft.

The paint job took over a month to finish and will stay on the jet for a year.

Articles

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.


In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.

 

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
WIRED FOR DISCOVERY. Earl Shamwell, one of the authors, sets up a multisensor robotics testbed to collect images, LIDAR data and inertial measurements. Researchers aim to improve robotic performance by closing the gap between what a robot expects to happen and what actually happens. (Photo by Jhi Scott, ARL)

What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.

We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.

‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’

Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.

Related: Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.

The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.

We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.

Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.

A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.

NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’

In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.

Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.

All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.

Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
Army researchers brief a Japanese industry delegation on a unique robot with strong, dexterous arms during an Oct. 5, 2016, visit to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF

Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.

Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.

For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.

Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.

CONCLUSION

At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.

A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.

Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.

If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.

Also read: The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

For more information about ARL collaboration opportunities in the science for maneuver, go to http://www.arl.army.mil/opencampus/.

DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.

This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.

Subscribe to Army ALT News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) Workforce.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 simple reasons the Union won the Civil War

If zeal could be weaponized in wartime, the Confederacy might have had a chance. Not everyone in the South was very confident about the Confederacy’s chances of winning the Civil War. As Rhett Butler pointed out in Gone With The Wind, there were just some things the South lacked that the North had in massive amounts — and it just so happened that all those things were the things you need to fight a war.

Cotton, slaves, and arrogance just wasn’t going to be enough to overcome everything else the Confederates lacked. Rhett Butler wasn’t far off in listing factories, coal mines, and shipyards as essential materials.


The fictional Rhett Butler only echoed statements made by prominent, prescient (and real) Southerners at the time, like Sam Houston.

“If you go to war with the United States, you will never conquer her, as she has the money and the men. If she does not whip you by guns, powder, and steel, she will starve you to death. It will take the flower of the country —the young men.”

The Confederacy never had a chance. The Civil War was just the death throes of an outmoded way of life that was incompatible with American ideals and the nail in its coffin was manufactured by Northern factories and foundries.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Manufacturing capacity

When it comes to actually fighting, there are some essentials that an army needs to be backed by — chief among them is the weapons of war. Southern historian Shelby Foote noted that the Industrial Revolution in the United States was in full swing at the time of the Civil War and much of that growing industrial strength was firmly in the North. Meanwhile, the South at the war’s onset was still chiefly an agrarian society which relied on material imported from outside the 11 would-be Confederate states.

It’s not that the Southern economy was poorly planned overall, it was just poorly planned for fighting a war.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Cotton awaiting transport in Arkansas.

Economics

Very closely related to industrial output is what the South could trade for those necessary war goods. When all is well, the South’s cotton-based economy was booming due to worldwide demand for the crop. The trouble was that the population density in the South was so low that much of the wealth of the United States (and the banks that go along with that money) were overwhelmingly located in the North.

When it came time to raise the money needed to fight a war, it was especially difficult for the South. Levying taxes on a small population didn’t raise the money necessary to fund the Confederate Army and, for other countries, investing in a country that may not exist in time for that investment to yield a return is a risky venture. And tariffs on imported goods only work if those goods make it to market, which brings us to…

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Civil War sailors were some of the saltiest.

Naval strength

Although the Confederacy saw some success at sea, the Confederate Navy was largely outgunned by the Union Navy. One of the first things the Union did was implement a naval blockade of Southern ports to keep supplies from getting to the Confederate Army while keeping that valuable Southern cotton from making it to foreign ports. The South’s import-export capacity fell by as much as 80 percent during the war.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Ground transport

Earlier I noted the Southern economy was poorly planned for fighting any war. That situation becomes more and more dire when fighting the war on the South’s home turf. The North’s industrialization required means of transport for manufactured goods and that meant a heavy investment in the fastest means of overland commercial transport available at the time: railroads.

Northern states created significant rail networks to connect manufacturing centers in major cities while the South’s cotton-based economy mainly relied on connecting plantations to major ports for export elsewhere. Railroad development was minimal in the South and large shipments were primarily made from inland areas by river to ports like New Orleans and Charleston – rivers that would get patrolled by the Union Navy.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

The port of Charleston in 1860.

Population

People who live in a country are good for more than just paying taxes to fund a functional government and its armies, they also fuel the strength, reach, and capabilities of those armies. In the early battles of the Civil War, the South inflicted a lot more casualties on the North while keeping their numbers relatively low. But the North could handle those kinds of losses, they had more people to replace the multiple thousands killed on the battlefield.

For the South, time was not on their side. At the beginning of the war, the Union outnumbered the Confederates 2-to-1 and no matter how zealous Southerners were to defend the Confederacy, there simply wasn’t enough of them to be able to handle the kinds of losses the Union Army began to dish out by 1863. At Gettysburg, for example, Robert E. Lee’s army numbered as many as 75,000 men – but Lee lost a third of those men in the fighting. Those were hardened combat troops, not easily replaced.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Jefferson Davis was widely criticized by his own government, being called more of an Adams than a Washington.

Politics

Replacing troops was a contentious issue in the Confederate government. The Confederacy was staunchly a decentralized republic, dedicated to the supremacy of the states over the central government in Richmond. Political infighting hamstrung the Confederate war effort at times, most notably in the area of conscription. The Confederate draft was as unpopular in the South as it was in the North, but Southern governors called conscription the “essence of military despotism.”

In the end, the Confederate central government had to contend with the power of its own states along with the invading Union Army. In 1863, Texas’ governor wouldn’t even send Texan troops east for fears that they would be needed to fight Indians or Union troops invading his home state.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

It’s been 72 years since the end of World War II, and most vets who served have passed away, with many of them honored as being part of the “Greatest Generation.” However, a few of those still alive are fighting for the recognition they believe they are due, including the one of the last surviving aircrew who took part in one of the most famous attacks in World War II.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, former RAF aircrewman Johnny Johnson, MBE, who took part in Operation Chastise – the attack on the Mohne, Elbe, and Sorpe dams in 1943, is among those campaigning for World War II veterans of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command to receive a medal. And he has some very harsh words for some historians.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
RAF Lancasters during a fire-bombing raid. (Wikimedia Commons)

“I have a pet hate of what I call ‘relative’ historians. I ask them two questions: ‘Were you there?’ and ‘Were you aware of the circumstances at the time?’ The answer is no, so keep your bloody mouth shut,” he said.

RAF’s Bomber Command, most famously lead by Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, carried out numerous bombing missions against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. According to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, 55,573 men who served in that command made the ultimate sacrifice.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who lead Bomber Command from February 1942 to September 1945. His men were given a difficult and ugly job, only to have politicians give them short shrift after the war. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bomber Command notably launched missions against German cities, most notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden, often sending over a thousand planes to carry out area-bombing missions against targets at night. The Daily Mail noted that the tactic caused heavy civilian casualties, causing the same politicians who ordered the bomber crews to carry out those difficult missions to distance themselves from the bomber offensive after World War II.

A memorial to Bomber Command’s fallen was not commissioned until 2012. A clasp was also awarded to veterans of Bomber Command, but Johnson is not satisfied.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
Dresden after RAF Bomber Command visited it in February, 1945. (Deutsche Fotothek)

“All I’m asking for is a Bomber Command medal,” he told the Daily Mail. He also is advocating that ground crews receive recognition for their efforts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian city introduced new mayor…by playing the Star Wars theme?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Oh, wait, no.

Actually, it was March 26, 2019, in the Russian city of Belgorod…

That’s when the music used to introduce the newly elected mayor at his oath-swearing ceremony was the Main Theme from Star Wars.

Video circulating on social media of the March 26, 2019 incident captured the moment when Yuri Galdun, 56, was introduced to take his oath of office after being elected to the post by Belgorod’s city council:


Мэр Белгорода принял присягу под музыку из “Звездных войн”

www.youtube.com

After Galdun’s name was announced, all of the people in the public hall were asked to “Please stand up.” Then, as Galdun walked out onto the stage, the public- address system blared out a short snippet of the Star Wars theme by composer John Williams – the song heard at the beginning of all the episodic Star Wars films.

Galdun, a former deputy governor of the Belgorod region, did not appear surprised as he placed his right hand on the Russian Constitution and said: “I take upon myself the highest and most responsible duties of the mayor of the city council for the city of Belgorod, I swear.”

Russia’s Baza channel on the Telegram instant-messaging app reported that the music was selected by a group of local officials that included Lyudmila Grekova, who heads the Belgorod city administration’s Department of Culture.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Yuri Galdun.

“We decided to replace the music” normally used for oath-swearing ceremonies “in order to make it more modern,” Baza quoted Grekova as saying on March 27, 2019.

Grekova told Baza that the decision was made by the group of city administrators, who listened to the brief snippet of music without knowing where it came from.

“There was no malicious intent,” Grekova said, adding that she usually “demands” Russian culture be represented rather than “foreign content.”

The Star Wars theme is considered the most recognizable melody in the series of Star Wars films. In addition to opening each of the films, it also forms the basis of the music heard during the end credits.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just rescued two Americans lost at sea (and their dogs)

The Sasebo-based amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) rendered assistance to two distressed mariners, Oct. 25, whose sailboat had strayed well off its original course.


The mariners, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs had set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti this spring. They had an engine casualty May 30 during bad weather but continued on, believing they could make it to land by sail.

Two months into their journey and long past when they originally estimated they would reach Tahiti, they began to issue distress calls. The two continued the calls daily, but they were not close enough to other vessels or shore stations to receive them.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
Tasha Fuiaba, an American mariner who had been sailing for five months on a damaged sailboat, climbs the accommodation ladder to board the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, rescued two American mariners who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

On Oct. 24, they were discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam who then coordinated with Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center, and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu to render assistance.

Operating near the area on a routine deployment, Ashland made best speed to the location of the vessel in the early morning on Oct. 25 and arrived on scene at 10:30 a.m that morning. After assessing the sailboat unseaworthy, Ashland crew members brought the distressed mariners and their two dogs aboard the ship at 1:18 p.m.

“I’m grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief,” said Appel.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
USS Ashland (LSD 48) Command Master Chief Gary Wise welcomes aboard Jennifer Appel, an American mariner who had received assistance from Ashland crew members. Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, rescued two American mariners who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

Appel said they survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, primarily in the form of dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.

Once on Ashland, the mariners were provided with medical assessments, food and berthing arrangements. The mariners will remain on board until Ashland’s next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.

Part of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward deployed naval forces out of Sasebo, Japan, Ashland has been on a routine deployment for the past five months as a ready-response asset for any of contingency.

MIGHTY GAMING

Halo: Reach was one of the best video games about war

Despite the fan base not being filled to the brim with lovers of the game, Halo: Reach remains in the hearts of many of us gamers who dumped a considerable amount of time into the game itself. One thing that might stand out, especially for those of us in the veteran community, is how the game itself depicts war.

Halo: Reach was released nearly a decade this upcoming September, and this campaign still gets a lot of us excited. It had some good characters, each with unique qualities, and the story was amazing. The gameplay is another story, but what we’re focusing on here is the biggest thing that stood out: this game is about war.

Here’s why Halo: Reach was one of the best:


U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

You were also, for the first time, surrounded by other Spartans.

(Bungie)

Nerfed Spartan strength

Throughout the original Halo trilogy, you fight as Master Chief, the only Spartan in sight, which makes you an absolute force of nature on the battlefield. You’re essentially unstoppable, with your only purpose being to bring judgment down upon the Covenant that stands before you.

Reach took that and essentially made you just slightly weaker, but it was noticeable. Stronger than the average UNSC Marine but just on the same level as the best the Covenant has to offer. This made you feel more like you couldn’t just steamroll into battles, bringing death on a silver platter to the Covenant.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

There are plenty of shots in the game that show the planet’s destruction.

(Bungie)

Depicted a losing fight

Most of us who knew the lore of Reach before the game’s release knew it was a doomed mission. You were fighting a losing battle because the Covenant hits the planet’s under-manned military defenses with an all-out attack force with the intent to reap every last soul upon its surface. That didn’t stop you, though.

It really showed the tenacity that troops bring to the battlefield. Knowing you could lose doesn’t matter, you’ll fight to the death anyway and make the enemy work for every life they have to take – and suffer the consequences of taking it to begin with.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Prime example: Jorge.

(Bungie)

Showed the tremendous sacrifices that were made

One thing that the original trilogy doesn’t take much time to do is to show the sacrifices of individual soldiers. Reach absolutely does that. With Noble Team, you see each of the team members die in some way or another, a couple of them choosing to die so that others may live.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Seeing mega cities like this getting torn apart was devastating.

(Bungie)

The devastation

Reach takes a lot of time to show us how destructive the Covenant is and the devastation of that destruction in context with what they do to the planet. Most of the other games you don’t get that sense, with Halo 3 being the obvious exception since part of it takes place on Earth.

But what we got in Reach was an entire game of trying to save a planet only to fail.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy to file homicide charges against commanders of ships involved in deadly collisions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy says it is filing negligent homicide charges against the commanders of two ships involved in fatal collisions last year.


The charges are to be presented at what the military calls an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused are court-martialed.

The actions, including charges against several lower-ranking officers, were announced Tuesday by the Navy’s chief spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks.

Hicks says the decision to file charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, head of the Navy’s nuclear reactors program, who reviewed evidence of what caused the collisions. The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

Ten sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia in August.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

When the English military needs to train its newest Gurkha recruits on English language and culture, they take them to the Gothic, fog-covered abbey that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula for some cruel reason. Then, they urge them to buy fish and chips from local vendors for some even crueler reason.


U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

A British Gurkha soldier watches down his rifle barrel for threats during an exercise with U.S. troops.

(U.S. Army William B. King)

Gurkha soldiers, for those who haven’t heard, are elite troops recruited out of the Gurkha region of Nepal. Troops from the kingdom stomped the British and the British East India Company in the 1760s and again during the Anglo-Nepalese War, which ran from 1814 to 1816. The Gurkhas defeated so many British troops that the East India Company hired them for future conflicts — if you can’t beam ’em, hire ’em.

This mercenary force proved itself over the years and, eventually, the Gurkhas were brought into the regular British Army in special regiments. Now, they’re elite units famous for their controlled savagery in combat.

When Gurkhas See The Sea For The First Time | Forces TV

youtu.be

Today, the Gurkhas are still recruited out of the mountains of Nepal. While they’re assessed on their English skills during the selection process, many young recruits from Nepal generally know little of the language and culture of the nation they swear to defend.

So, the British government gives them classes and takes them on field trips to historic sites. Oddly enough, one of the historical sites they take them to is the abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire — the site that inspired Dracula.

“Thank you for defending England. Too bad it’s haunted, eh?”

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

The Whitby Abbey ruins which helped inspire the story that would become ‘Dracula.’

(Ackers72, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bram Stoker visited a friend in Whitby in July, 1890 — and it was a Gothic writer’s dream. It had the old abbey ruins, a church infested with bats, and large deposits of the black stone jet, often used in mourning jewelry.

Stoker was working on a novel about “Count Wampyr” when he arrived, but it was in a library in Whitby that he learned about Vlad Tepes, the impalement-happy prince whose nickname was Dracula, meaning “son of the dragon.” Stoker also learned about a Russian ship that had crashed nearby while carrying a load of sand. He tweaked the name of the ship to create the ship Dracula used to move his home soil and coffin to England.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

In ‘Dracula,’ the titular monster lands on the coast of Whitby — at a place like this — before climbing the abbey’s steps and beginning a reign of terror.

(Andrew Bone, CC BY 2.0)

In the novel, Dracula’s ship runs aground at Whitby and the “Black Dog” runs up the abbey’s 199 steps to begin terrorizing the English residents.

Now, Gurkhas tour the area to learn about Stoker and absorb some English history.

After their tour, the Gurkhas are encouraged to try out the local delicacy, fish and chips (for the fiercely American among us, “chips” means “french fries”). This may not seem like additional horror, but since Nepal is known for spicy curry and the English are known for using vinegar as a condiment, this is honestly the cruelest part of the lesson.

They also get to jump in the sea — or whatever.

Articles

Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.


Sounds bad, right?

Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.

The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.

That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.

A 1992 crash near Quantico Marine Corps Base took the lives of several personnel, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”

The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.

Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.

Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.

Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.

The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.

Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.

None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.

The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.

Military Life

6 tips to help you survive the notorious ‘Crucible’

Since 1996, “the Crucible” has been the subject of Marine recruits’ nightmares. It serves as the final test you must complete in order to officially and finally earn the title of United States Marine. During this 54-hour event, your platoon is split into squads, each led by one of your drill instructors, and each recruit must take a crack at being squad leader.

Throughout boot camp, you become accustomed to getting 8 hours of sleep and enjoying 3 meals per day, but during the Crucible, you’ll get just 6 hours of rest and three MREs to last you the whole 54-hour period. You’ll have to face down physical challenges throughout the day to test your mettle and see if you really have what it takes to be a Marine.

Here are some tips for surviving.


U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Remember — you’ll need this skill for the rest of your career.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

Work as a team

Most of the challenges you’re going to face are team-based. You and the other recruits have developing individual strengths throughout boot camp, but you may not yet have developed great teamwork skills. The Crucible will, essentially, force you to figure it out.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Don’t be a weak leader.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

Take charge

When you’re selected to be the squad leader, be loud, be firm, and don’t be afraid to use the powerful voice you’ve spent the last three months perfecting.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Even if you plan ahead, be prepared to be hungry the whole time.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Plan your meals

For the love of Chesty Puller, don’t scarf down your only meal for the day. Divide up your snacks and save the main meal. It sucks, but it’s better than going hungry in the second half because you ate everything during the first.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Just say, “f*ck it.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)

Don’t be afraid to do anything

Hopefully, during boot camp, you’ve learned the importance courage since it’s one of the core values of the Corps. If you’re not brave yet, the Crucible is filled with challenges that will make sure you are before you become a Marine.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Just get back up and keep moving.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

Be resilient

You may fail some challenges, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get to try again. So, don’t get discouraged when you’re getting smoked by a drill instructor.

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

Embrace the suck and you’ll make it through.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

Have a positive attitude

A positive outlook will get you through any situation. Even if you’re sitting on the cold dirt at 3 am when it’s less than 30 degrees outside, if you can find a way to be positive, you’ll get through it. If you learn this during boot camp, the rest of your military career will be a piece of cake.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information