This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

The Special Air Service came into existence in the 1940s during the Second World War, making it one of the oldest special operations units. Known for their incredibly difficult selection process, the SAS produces some of the toughest — both physically and mentally — soldiers in the world. Chris Ryan, a retired soldier and survival expert, is living proof of how far an SAS trooper can push himself beyond the limits in the direst situations.


Having joined the military at a young age, Ryan (a pseudonym — he was born Colin Armstrong) appeared for SAS selection and passed, joining the ranks of the British Army’s shadowy, elite fighting force. He was sent overseas several times on a variety of missions and covert operations, including training guerilla fighters in Asia.

Assigned to 22 Special Air Service Regiment, Ryan was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War as part of 22 SAS’s Bravo Squadron. In conjunction with other coalition special ops elements, SAS strike teams were inserted behind enemy lines in Iraq and Kuwait to harass Iraqi forces and pinpoint the locations of mobile Scud ballistic missile launchers.

 

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety
Delta Force operators hunting for Scud missile launchers during the Persian Gulf War (Photo from U.S. Army)

 

Ryan was attached to one such team, serving as its medic. The 8-man unit, known as Bravo Two Zero, was covertly inserted deep into Iraqi territory via a Chinook helicopter, whereupon they traveled by foot to their observation post.

Things began to go wrong quickly for the SAS.

The team’s radioman discovered that their communications gear was faulty. Though their transmissions were received by their command post, Bravo Two Zero was wholly unaware of whether their messages had actually gone through and couldn’t receive any messages in return.

Further complicating matters was the presence of Bedouin nomadic tribes roaming around the desert. The day following their insertion, Bravo Two Zero was compromised when a Bedouin shepherd unwittingly stumbled upon the team while they were on patrol. Ditching excess gear, the team decided to exfiltrate — the element of stealth and surprise was lost altogether and Iraqi forces would likely be ready for them in superior numbers.

However, emergency pickup never came.

 

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety
An RAF Chinook, much like the one used to insert Bravo Two Zero, popping flares before landing in a combat zone (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinook assigned to the task of removing Bravo Two Zero from behind enemy lines had to turn back because of an in-flight emergency. The team decided to try and hail nearby Coalition forces aircraft with their tactical beacons and, in the process, became inadvertently separated. The team experienced their first loss with the death of Sergeant Vince Phillips, the patrol’s second-in-command, due to hypothermia. Another operative, Trooper Mal MacGown, was captured by Iraqi forces quickly afterwards while trying to steal a Toyota SUV for transportation.

Ryan, now completely separated from the rest of Bravo Two Zero, was on his own. The remaining members of his team were either captured, imprisoned, or had died in an attempt to escape to friendly territory.

Orienting himself north, Ryan began a long march that would make even the most experienced soldiers blush. Walking over 190 miles through the desert over the span of eight days, the stranded SAS medic made it to safety, where he was taken into protective custody by Syrian border guards.

Over the course of his journey, Ryan survived on minimal food and water, losing over 36 lbs of weight. To make matters worse, he was poisoned after drinking water from a creek in Iraq — the water had been contaminated by waste from a nearby nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Upon being remanded to the care of British diplomats, Ryan was transferred back home to the United Kingdom. The other members of Bravo Two Zero would be released by the war’s end.

Ryan, in no physical condition to remain an active SAS operative, continued his service with the regiment as a training instructor before retiring from the military life altogether in 1994. Today, he offers his expertise on survival and special operations as an author and an advisor for a number of television shows.

To this day, no soldier has ever successfully accomplished a similar feat.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

MIGHTY HEROES: One family, three essential workers

As a second grade teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Candice Fallon is always thinking about the spread of germs.

“My second graders aren’t the best at keeping germs to themselves,” Fallon told We Are The Mighty. “When I initially heard about coronavirus, I was concerned about the fact that it would spread so easily.”

When the novel coronavirus began circulating around Pennsylvania and the nation, Fallon’s senses heightened. She was no longer just worried about herself or her students.


This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Candice Fallon, like many schoolteachers, has transitioned to a Google Classroom during quarantine.

Courtesy of Candice Fallon

“I was worried about bringing home any germs to my son as he has asthma,” she shared, referencing her toddler son, Tristan.

Almost immediately, Fallon’s school shuttered and she transitioned into an online teaching platform, a routine that was entirely new to the 31-year-old educator.

“Initially, we were sending emails to parents of activities that they could do online,” Fallon explained. “After two weeks, we switched over to all online education. We moved to all teachers having a Google classroom and all teachers pushing out lessons through an educational resource called Clever-Edmentum. Each week, I push out instructions online for all subjects: reading, writing, math, science/social studies. Prior to this, I had no knowledge of how to use Google classroom. It has been a lot of work setting that up and keeping in contact with parents, trying to get them all connected to our new classroom.”

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Just one example of a virtual lesson for her second grade class.

Courtesy of Candice Fallon

Though she makes it seem effortless, Fallon’s pivot in teaching is just a small part of how COVID-19 has impacted her central Pennsylvania family.

“My husband lost his job due to his employer closing temporarily, so that has been a challenge figuring things out financially,” she said. “In addition, both my parents are still working. My mom is a nurse and my father is semi-retired and works part time at a grocery store.”

Fallon’s father, Scott Heller, works in the produce department at his local Giant Food Store.

“When COVID-19 first arrived in Pennsylvania, I didn’t think it would shut the whole state down,” he told We Are The Mighty. “But I can see why they have done so to stop the spread of the disease. It appears that it may be working.”

Fallon shared that his employer encourages them to wear masks to help protect themselves while working and that shoppers have similar lists.

“Everyone wants the same few items: toilet paper, Lysol wipes and meat,” Scott Heller explained. “These products sold out as quickly as they came in. As time has passed, Giant has gotten many items back into stock, but you can tell people are buying more than usual because they don’t plan on returning to the store as often. People that would typically shop once a week now are coming every two or three weeks.”

On the other side of the front line, Heller’s wife, Bonnie, works as an operating room nurse at the local hospital.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

As an operating room nurse, Bonnie still reports to work everyday.

“A nurse is always on the front lines,” Bonnie Heller shared. “The hospital is never closed. Once the governor shut things down, the hospital stopped all elective surgeries. With the operating room being slow, I was told I may be asked to work elsewhere in the hospital. I want to help and enjoy taking care of others.”

Through it all, Fallon shares that the hardest part of handling coronavirus hasn’t been transitioning to a virtual classroom or teaching preschool to her son, but the missed quality time with her parents.

“It’s been hard not to see family,” she said. “My son has asthma and loves spending time with his grandparents. Since they are still working, we cannot see them in person due to possibly sharing germs. We are doing lots of FaceTiming.”

Fallon’s parents agree.

“It’s hard not being able to spend time with the ones you love,” Bonnie Heller added. “I am hopeful that it will end sooner than later.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

She saw her baby on a ventilator. Now, she’s asking you to stay home

The first time I saw my child on a ventilator he was 30 minutes old. My second child earned his first intubation at six months. I cannot tell you the number of times I have sat in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with one of my two children sedated and medically paralyzed while a machine did their breathing for them.

After watching my children on a respirator, I’m begging you to please, stay home.


This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

DoD

If you add up our total PICU stays, I have probably lived in a hospital — sleeping, showering, eating — yes, living, for over a year of my life.

When one of my sons was almost four years old, he was hospitalized with respiratory distress. The medical staff tried their hardest to avoid intubation. They threw a BiPAP machine on him in the ER and sent us to the PICU. BiPAP is like a CPAP machine that’s used for sleep apnea, but it allows patients to get more air in and out of their lungs. While neither of these devices might sound particularly alarming, remember that this isn’t someone who has trouble sleeping; this is my three year old.

The doctors quickly realized that this wasn’t enough. They told us they had to intubate and then quickly forgot we were there. Twenty people gathered in the hallway and in my son’s room. I knew I didn’t want to be there and usually they ask you to leave for this part, so I walked away. My husband did not.

To say the next part haunts his dreams is an understatement. They removed the BiPAP and without the pressure my son’s lungs closed instantly. It was the middle of the night. In the waiting room outside the PICU I watched out the window as every floor lit up with flashing blue lights and I heard the big voice in the sky calling “code blue PICU,” over and over. I watched as more people ran into the PICU.

Inside my husband watched as a PICU nurse jumped onto the table and sat on top of our son to pump his blood for him. He was gone.

Fortunately for us, PICU nurses and doctors are amazing and we were in arguably the best children’s hospital in the United States, if not the world. They saved him.

Quickly after they had him intubated and alive, the doctor came out to tell us that he qualified for a study where they would essentially freeze him to give his heart and brain time to recover, and they needed permission. It had to happen quickly if he didn’t show proper neurological function right away.

Because of these incredible men and women in the PICU, my son just turned 11 and he has no lingering issues from this episode.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

DoD

This is a story from a time when there were enough ventilators and there were 50 doctors and nurses who were able to rush to my son and save him. With a growing critical shortage of ventilators in the United States, it hurts my heart to think about what it might be like if there wasn’t one available for my son. What it might be like for the family who loses their loved one. What it is like for the nurse giving CPR with no way to permanently save their patient.

This isn’t political; this is life or death. We must do everything in our power to provide these doctors and nurses with every piece of equipment and protective gear that they need. They needed these things yesterday, and today is not soon enough.

I tell you all this not just to scare you, but to scare the living daylights out of you. Stay in your house. I am happily sitting at home watching Netflix in my own bed while hugging my children. In the PICU, a child has so many wires attached to them that you’re afraid to touch your baby for fear of harming them.

So watch TV in your underwear at home, eat a piece of cake, and keep yourself, your babies, your grandma, your aunt, your neighbor and my babies safe.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

It’s almost impossible to get COVID-19 on an airplane, new military study suggests

A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 — and it doesn’t matter where they sit on the airplane.

Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft — the planes tested for the study — airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.


“The favorable results are attributable to a combination of the airframes’ high air exchange rates, coupled with the high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration recirculation systems, and the downward airflow ventilation design which results in rapid dilution and purging of the disseminated aerosol particles,” Vice Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command, said during a virtual roundtable with reporters.

DARPA teamed up with biodefense company Zeteo Tech, scientific research company S3i and the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) for the trials. Industry partners included Boeing and United Airlines.; the study was funded by TRANSCOM, according to Army Lt Col Ellis Gales, spokesman for the command.

“All areas on both aircraft proved to be extremely effective in dispersing and filtering out the aerosol particles,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Pope, TRANSCOM Operations directorate liaison for the airflow particle test. “So specifically, can I tell you to sit in seat XYZ? No; they all performed very well.”

During the tests, held Aug. 24-31, analysts released two types of aerosols that had specific DNA signatures. The tagged fluorescent tracers allowed for researchers to better follow their distribution path, both in flight and on the ground.

Sensors throughout the aircraft measured over 300 iterations of aerosol releases — at rates of 2 to 4 minutes — across four cabin zones on the 777, and three zones on the 767, Mewboourne explained. The dispersions were mapped in real-time, he said.

The particles were quickly diluted, however, and only remained detectable for fewer than six minutes on average, TRANSCOM said in the report. By comparison “a typical American home takes around 90 minutes to clear these types of particles from the air,” the command said.

While the more time spent on an aircraft correlates to a potential infection rate, according to the study, even passengers on long-haul flights wouldn’t be able to pick up a sufficient viral load under the test conditions. Passengers traveling on board the 777 would need to spend at least “54 hours when sitting next to an index patient in the economy section,” and more than 100 hours in the other cabins of both the 777 and the 767 to be exposed to an infectious dose, the study said.

Mannequins representing passengers were positioned throughout the aircraft, some wearing masks and some without. David Silcott of S3i and one of the authors of the report said the dispersed mannequins were part of both breathing and cough tests.

During the simulated cough tests, masked mannequins showed a “very, very large reduction in aerosol that would come out of [them], greater than 95% for most cases,” Silcott said. “It definitely showed the benefit of wearing a mask inflight from these tests.”

Pope said it is important to consider that the study was specific to aerosols and not ballistic droplets, those that are emitted while coughing, sneezing or breathing heavily.

That said, “the mask is very important in that the larger droplets that travel ballistically through the air will be caught by your mask,” Pope said. “And if you don’t have the mask on, then you cannot reduce those numbers of ballistic particles.”

Scientists also collected samples from surfaces like armrests and video screens, considered “high-touch” zones; the tests showed that while the distribution on surfaces was minimal, flat surface areas — like armrests — are more likely than vertical surface areas like seatbacks or screens to collect deposits of particles.

There are other caveats: The scientists didn’t try to simulate passengers freely moving about the cabin, moving around to switch locations or turning toward one another to have a conversation.

“While … we’re very encouraged by the results, that’s part of the reason why we’re making the results public, and sharing them with the scientific community so that that follow-on research can be done,” Pope said.

The study next heads into a peer review before its findings can be submitted for a scientific journal. TRANSCOM is examining the results, which could spur new travel policies or proposals, Pope said.

Following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, TRANSCOM identified an immediate need to move passengers in a safe manner, including high-risk patients as well as military members and families traveling aboard the Defense Department-contracted Patriot Express flights. The two Boeing aircraft used for the aerosol simulations are the aircraft most typically used for Patriot Express flights.

The officials stressed service members should still follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and airline protocols when boarding a flight.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Virtual museum tours help you get out of your house when you’re forced to stay inside

With museums and galleries around the world shuttered, it might feel like there’s no way to explore the world. For the military community, this Inside Time can feel even more cloistered, since we can’t get out and explore new areas. Now, thanks to tech, closed doors don’t mean you can’t get your culture fix.

Access the most renowned museums, all from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Digital archives are available for everything from top-notch spots like the Louvre to lesser-known museums, tourist attractions and even graffiti tours. When you’re ready to get outside but can’t leave your house, check out this list.


Start here

If you’re not sure where to start your digital tours, the most comprehensive resource is Google Arts Culture. With access to art in over 2500 museums, GAC offers the chance to “stroll” through museums and gather your thoughts, explore inspiration or just marvel at how painters and sculptors do what they do.

GAC also offers a comprehensive list of tours to the world’s most famous museums, like Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and the Tate Modern in London. If you have a specific museum in mind, you can search for it at the GAC. Or, let the curators lead you on a tour of exciting exhibits, like this one that gives you access to six street-level installations that are no longer open to the public.

Global Tours

Mumbai’s City Museum is the oldest museum in Mumbai. It was initially established as a “treasure house’ for decorative arts. Its current exhibits feature a gallery that explores oppression, freedom, and justice.

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin is one of Germany’s largest museums and is the home to the Greek Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. Online offerings include exploring the Eighth Wonder of the World and a short historical tour of Pergamon.

Contemporary and modern art lovers will enjoy exploring the myriad galleries at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul. Its doors opened in 1969 and have been witness to the blossoming art modern art scene in the region.

Closer to Home

Ever wonder what Americans were wearing in 1790? Now you can take a look, thanks to the digital tours offered at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The museum also boasts an impressive collection of Vermeer paintings and is home to over forty thousand items, all available for browsing from your screen.

Located inside a park, the Cincinnati Art Museum has a diverse collection of works that span six thousand years. One of the most popular online exhibitions features the myths and heroes of popular legends.

For folks who can’t process any new info but still want to feel like they’re a part of humanity, 24-hour live feeds of highly-popular areas might offer a little sense of normalcy. Check-in on Times Square, take a look at the Eiffel Tower or watch ships navigate the Panama Canal. If you’re into something more celestial, NASA offers a 24-hour live stream from space.

In the time of social distancing, as we’re confined to our homes, we have to explore new ways of expanding our horizons. For families that have made the shift to homeschooling, virtual museum tours can offer you a chance to give your kids access to new words that aren’t available right now.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Worried about coronavirus? Take this infection-control course online

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot life around the world, it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. After all, there are a lot of unknowns. But there are plenty of ways to arm yourself with proper information and feel a bit more grounded. Doctors, for instance, are all mandated to take state-mandated infection courses online. Available to the public, and free unless someone wants to take a test to pass, the courses offer a wealth of public information. While they are a bit of a slog to read (and nary an educational video in sight) they’re helpful for anyone who wants to know everything from if their bleach is strong enough to kill bacteria or how to put on gloves without covering them in germs.


So, which courses might be useful? One, administered by Access Continuing Education Inc., intended for doctors in New York State, and aptly (and drily) titled Infection Control: New York State Mandatory Training, contains a wealth of worthwhile information. The course isn’t like a typical virtual classroom — there are no teachers, no video sessions, and no mandated quizzes at the end. There are no hours required to finish the course and each ‘Element,’ a full-text article that reads about a page long, touches on a different process of how to limit transmission.

Is it an exciting read? No, but the pages are full of very, very important information, including hand washing technique, what the proper etiquette and technique is when coughing, and how to clean spills of bodily fluids. Other relevant information for parents within the text include what protective gear people can wear to limit transmission (including gloves, masks, and goggles) and how to put them on while also keeping them clean. The text also defines the different levels of sterilization and what recommended, medical grade sterilizers can be used and how to dilute bleach.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Now, a large chunk of the course does focus on safe usage of needles — which is not exactly relevant for parents and Coronavirus — but the text is free to read online for anyone who wants to be educated on best practices and how to stay safe. There’s a test at the end of the course, which does not need to be taken, obviously, as parents could just be reading this for their own information, but could be fun if you’re very, very bored.

The average parent won’t be using scalpels or lancets, but they can learn the differences between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, learn how professionals limit potential exposure from patients when dealing with infectious diseases, and learn strategies for how to limit the spread of pathogens in the home and use those in their own spaces.

Knowledge, at a time like this, can be empowering. It can also be scary if that knowledge is not actionable. That’s why these courses are an excellent resource. They provide parents a sense of control of a situation over which no one has control. They can help parents do all that they can to help keep their families healthy. And that is what it will take to limit the spread of this disease: serious, educated action, social distancing, and disinfecting.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier compared coronavirus quarantine to prison, Pentagon vows to ‘do better’

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is pledging to improve the way troops are treated while in coronavirus quarantine after a soldier in Texas reportedly called the situation “the most dysfunctional Army operation I’ve ever seen.”


A soldier, referred to by the pseudonym Henry Chinaski by The Daily Beast, told the outlet he has been stuck in a 15-by-15 foot room with three other troops at Fort Bliss since Sunday. The service members just returned from Afghanistan and have been ordered to remain quarantined for two weeks in case they caught the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, while deployed or returning to the States.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

The group gets two meals a day and a couple bottles of water, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. The soldier, who has served for 17 years, texted reporters with the outlet about their experience. He said they’ve gotten no information about what they’re supposed to be doing while they wait.

“Prisoners receive better care and conditions than that which we are experiencing at Fort Bliss,” the soldier told The Daily Beast. “The Army was not prepared, nor equipped to deal with this quarantine instruction and it has been implemented very poorly.”

The situation now has Esper’s attention, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday.

“His response is, ‘We can do better, and we need to do better,'” Jonathan Hoffman said. “I know that the commander at Fort Bliss is aware; he has been in contact. My understanding is that he met with all the soldiers who are quarantined and talked through some of their concerns.”

The soldier at Fort Bliss told The Daily Beast his exercise has been limited to push-ups, sit-ups and lunges in the room. On Tuesday, the service members got 20 minutes of yard time, according to the report.

The military is now looking at allowing troops stuck in holding patterns before they’re considered to be virus-free more time outside, Hoffman said, and visits to base exchanges, where they can purchase toiletries and other items.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“[We’re] also looking at other bases that are doing quarantines,” Hoffman said. “We’re checking to see how they’re holding up and doing this, as well. We can do better.”

As of Wednesday morning, 49 U.S. troops had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 14 Defense Department civilians, 19 dependents and seven contractors also have the virus.

Hoffman said every base commander is looking at how the military should handle quarantine situations as a result of The Daily Beast’s story.

“This is something that’s unusual for all these bases to be handling, and they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “… [But] we owe it to them, and we’re going to look into it and try to do better.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Things you can do outside while social distancing

One of our biggest saving graces during the pandemic is the opportunity to catch some fresh air! Whether you’re cooped up at home with kids or are working overtime to fill a need for essential employees (or both!), catching that fresh vitamin D is good for the body.

In fact, going outside can boost your mood and jumpstart your immune system; it can reduce pain and all the scents can do wonders for your endorphins. But don’t take these scientific reasons into account all on their own, experience the outdoors for yourself and keep everyone busy during the pandemic.


Here are 6 things you can do while social distancing:

Go on a walk

Simple, easy, and done with minimal planning. Steer clear of any neighbors, of course (especially if you live on post or in tight quarters), but now is the perfect time to get in your steps! Explore your neighborhood and find areas you’ve never visited or just breath in that fresh oxygen while taking a few laps around the block. Repeat as needed.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Have a picnic

You’re eating at home anyway, so why not take the party outside? Lay down a blanket to keep the bugs at bay, then enjoy some fun and breezy meals out in the yard. Repeat as weather allows.

Go on a scavenger hunt

These lists are swarming the Internet, so luckily you won’t have to work hard to find your objectives. Whether you’re taking kids or are looking for a more sophisticated list of items, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get creative outdoors.

Don’t forget the neighborhood bear hunt either.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Bust out the old fashioned games

Tag, Frisbee, wiffle ball and more will turn into family favorites during the pandemic. Your family is already in close quarters, so don’t fret about a few passings of the ball.

However, don’t be afraid to be firm with neighbors and let them know they can’t join. Hellos from a distance remain kosher, but passing objects between households is a strict no-no.

Go for a drive

Weather not going your way? For the days you need a change of scenery, head to the car. This is a great time for an automated car wash (don’t forget to Lysol any buttons that need to be pushed), or a cruise to somewhere new.

Roll down the windows and feel the breeze while everyone jams to favorite tunes.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Sit and talk

Weeks ago this might have sounded boring, but today, it’s a nice change of pace! Sit with your morning coffee, FaceTime a friend, let the kids play and simply enjoy being outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and endorphins. Take advantage of this easy but proven mood booster!

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

No joke: Here’s how you can join President Trump’s COVID-19 briefing April 1

During the COVID-19 crisis, President Trump has been holding daily briefings from the White House to provide updates on the pandemic. Now, the president is extending an opportunity for service members and their families to listen in on a conference call hosted especially for them, to discuss the status of COVID-19 and how it impacts the military.


The Department of Defense announced the call on social media, requesting that interested parties RSVP via a provided link.

According to the Center for Disease Control, as of March 31, 2020, there were 163,539 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States and 2,860 deaths. The military announced they will no longer be releasing numbers of infected service members due to security reasons.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

MOSCOW — The 15 Russian military planes that delivered much-needed medical equipment to Italy last week to deal with the coronavirus outbreak were branded with the slogan “From Russia With Love.”

And that sentiment was reciprocated.

Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini offered official thanks to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. Italian singer Pupo posted a video of himself performing a popular Soviet song, and signed off saying: “I love you Russia. Thank you.”


And fellow crooner Al Bano was quoted by a Russian news agency saying Italy would never forget Russia’s help.

In Russia, video of the country’s anthem playing in a quiet Italian neighborhood was quickly picked up by state TV.

“Italians are turning to us with words of thanks,” said one presenter.

“A sign of gratitude from local residents,” quipped another. “The U.S. and Europe could learn a lesson,” an anchor concluded.

While reports have emerged that some of the “grateful residents of Italy” were, in fact, from Russia, cheerleaders at home are seizing the opportunity to promote Russian diplomacy and international outreach.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

That chorus grew louder following news that Russia sent masks and medical equipment to the hard-hit United States on April 1.

Russia is not alone in sending aid abroad. The United States, Germany, and France have also sent supplies despite dealing with their own domestic outbreaks. And China — where the outbreak originated — has sought to reverse the negative fallout by providing expertise and equipment to other countries, although the delivery of faulty equipment and questionable data has been criticized.

But for Russia, such missions prove a belabored point. Since its relations with the West soured amid the Ukraine crisis in 2014, and Moscow was placed under economic sanctions by much of the world, President Vladimir Putin’s government has lobbied for the world to see it as a force for good, with a crucial role to play in the international arena.

It has not been an easy sell.

Aid … But With Strings?

While a convoy of whitewashed military vehicles containing clothes and medicine that the Kremlin sent to eastern Ukraine in 2014 was shown on loop on state TV, others saw the purported humanitarian effort as a way of secretly supplying weapons to the Moscow-backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces.

And Russia’s military operation in Syria, launched in 2015 with the declared aim of driving out the Islamic State extremist group from the region, was presented by federal channels as a peace mission to liberate the war-ravaged Middle Eastern state. But while Russian soldiers were shown handing out food packages to Syrian children, critics accused Russia of bombing hospitals and targeting rebel forces fighting against Syria’s Kremlin-backed President Bashar al-Assad.

As the current coronavirus outbreak took root, murals in Moscow and beyond depicted Russia as an amiable bear surrounded by doves, and one Putin likeness was depicted carrying the globe on his shoulders.

In recent weeks, China — another country exporting medical aid — has also pushed positive propaganda about its contributions to that global campaign. In Italy, one newspaper found that several videos shared by Chinese officials and appearing to show Italians applauding and thanking the Chinese were doctored or staged.

For some, Russia’s latest missions have also led to questions.

The La Stampa newspaper on March 25 cited unnamed officials in Rome saying that 80 percent of Russia’s aid package was “totally useless.” Moscow was in an uproar about the claims, which were shared widely. “The aid given to Italy is selfless,” Russia’s ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov told the RIA news agency. “Not subject to a trade-off, a settling of bills or anything of the kind.”

Then there was that video of the Russian anthem being played on an Italian street. The video originated as a post to the Telegram messenger app by a Russian journalist working for the Daily Storm outlet. “Who would have thought that our Russian hymn will play on the streets of Italy?” wrote Alyona Sivkova on March 25, in a caption to the video.

The following day, after the video had been featured in various Russian reports as evidence of ordinary Italians’ gratitude to Russia, Sivkova posted an angry Telegram post alleging that Russian state media had “stolen” the video — which was recorded by the Italy-based mother of a Russian colleague — for their own purposes.

Ilya Shepelin, who leads a program debunking fake news on independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, told the BBC that Italians who have publicly praised Russia’s aid to their country are mostly people with close business ties to Russia.

“We’re not dealing here with a pure fabrication, but manipulation,” he said of the Russian TV reports. “Hybrid lies, or hybrid truth.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Parents use creativity to take kids on driveway adventures

In March, parents across the country began hunkering down at home with kids of all ages. Stay-at-home orders going into effect across states at different times left many juggling both parenting and teaching, and trying to find a way forward.

As temperatures across the nation heat up, parents have taken to driveways and sidewalks to ease that at-home blues for their kids, letting creativity take the lead with sidewalk chalk designs.

For Abbey Tucker, a mom of four girls ages 3, 7, 11 and 13, the creativity began with her oldest child.

“My oldest daughter drew some balloons at the start of quarantine,” the Atlanta-area mom told We Are The Mighty.


This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“I took a photo of my 3 year old with them and loved it so we decided to try some more and it took off from there. The ideas come from lots of places – the internet, favorite Disney films or just things we would love to do that we can’t do right now.”

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety
This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety
This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Heather Gibb, a central Pennsylvania mom of three, can relate.

“It all started with Ella asking me to draw her a princess carriage to sit in,” Gibb said, referencing her 5 year-old daughter. “So I Googled it because I actually am terrible at drawing unless I have a picture.”

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Gibb said that the princess carriage led to her son, Rhett, wanting a crocodile.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“And that led to me getting 100 other ideas from Pinterest,” she shared.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety
This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety
This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

When Heather Tenneson of Madison, Alabama had to cancel a much-anticipated family trip to Disney World, she took her daughters using chalk (and a little bit of imagination) in the driveway.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

Tucker, Gibb and Tenneson are just three examples of parents taking their creativity outdoors.

When We Are the Mighty asked parents to share how they were getting creative with their kids outside, they delivered. Messages of hope and inspiration, Disney characters, stained-glass inspired works of art, learning tools and games came tumbling into our inbox from every corner of the country.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Amber — California)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Austin — Pennsylvania)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Austin — California)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Calvin — Sugar Hill, Georgia)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Courtney — Kansas City)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Declan — Honolulu, Hawaii)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Jordan — Pennsylvania)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Kayden — Harrisburg, PA)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Kayden Willa — Harrisburg, PA)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Lauren son Maddox, pictured — Littleton, CO)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Max — Honolulu)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Nicole — Las Vegas)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

Whether parents are encouraging creativity through art, looking for a family-friendly outdoor activity, or simply seeking another way to entertain kids at home, sidewalk chalk delivers.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

‘Terrible, tragic mistake:’ Top general warns enemies not to test US military readiness

The Pentagon’s top leaders said Thursday they can see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that the U.S. military remains a force in readiness, with fewer than 2,000 cases out of more than two million troops available to support contingency operations.

During an internet broadcast Thursday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned adversaries that it would be a “terrible, tragic mistake if they thought that … [they] can take advantage of any opportunities … at a time of crisis.”


“The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people,” Milley said. “We will adapt ourselves to operating in a COVID-19 environment. We are already doing that.”

As of Thursday, 1,898 service members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 389 soldiers, 367 airmen, 164 Marines, 597 sailors and 381 National Guard members.

Given that the Defense Department has 2.3 million troops, including the National Guard and reserve components, the services are “ready today and will be ready tomorrow,” Milley said.

This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“I’m absolutely confident that we are very ready to handle any mission that comes our way,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper during the broadcast. “Why is that? It’s because our commanders and NCOs have taken measures to protect our members.”

Less than .09 percent of U.S. forces have confirmed COVID-19 infections, and nearly all are “mild or moderate” cases, according to Esper. Sixty-four service members have been hospitalized for the coronavirus.

By contrast, .13 percent of the U.S. population have confirmed cases of the illness.

“We also have far, far, far smaller numbers of hospitalizations. …. I attribute that to the measures we took very early on, going all the way back to 3 February when we issued our first guidance to the field in regard to health protection,” Esper said.

According to Esper and Milley, the DoD has more than 50,000 service members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes 29,400 National Guard members, as well as 17,000 members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thousands of military medical personnel.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Thursday that many of the military medical personnel are now serving in civilian hospitals, filling in for staff members who have become ill or need rest — especially in hard-hit areas like New York City.

The strategy is a switch from the initial intent for military health professionals to treat patients transported to field hospitals such as the Javits Center in New York, he said.

“We have thousands of reservists — medical professionals — deployed all over the country from their normal lives at home to the middle of New York City, in hours or days, leaving their families, leaving their homes, running toward the trouble,” Hyten said.

To date, 113 service members of the 1,898 infected have recovered from the coronavirus. One service member, Army National Guard Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, died March 28.

A sailor from the carrier Theodore Roosevelt became gravely ill Thursday and was transported to an intensive care unit after being discovered unresponsive in his room by shipmates, Hyten said.

“We are hoping that the sailor recovers. We are praying for him and his families and his shipmates,” he added.

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

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