According to the Associated Press, LaMar joined the Marines and served for four years after graduating high school in 1986. Following a decade of working as an electrician and with an armored truck company, LaMar joined the Army in 2007 despite relatives’ efforts to talk him out of the decision. His brother-in-law Gilbert Alvarado told the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee that LaMar “wanted to go back.”
“He wanted to fight for his country,” Alvarado said.
According to Military Times, LaMar was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas and died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley.
LaMar was a “great guy with a big heart” who loved his family, according to his brother-in-law, LaMar died on his wedding anniversary. His next leave was set to start Jan. 30, 2011, and he would have seen his three-month-old daughter for the first time then.
Kittle donated the two tickets to LaMar’s wife, Josephine, who will be bringing her and Mick’s son to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.
“The work I do with the USAA and the TAPS organization is something I really have kind of fallen in love with,” Kittle said (via the Sacramento Bee). “I have a lot of family in the military, so it’s something that I just respect, and the sacrifice that they give is the ultimate sacrifice. So if I can ever give back and make a family’s day or just make them smile a little bit, then I’ve just done a little part in their lives.”
The Salute to Service’s mission is to be a year-round effort to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. It is grounded in deep partnerships with nonprofits and organizations that support the military community in the United States and across the world. In partnership with USAA, the NFL expands Salute to Service off the field to honor and recognize our military by bringing players and team personnel to military bases, hosting thousands of service members at NFL games and events, and enlisting NFL fans to show military appreciation. Learn more about the Salute to Service and their NFL experience at Super Bowl LIV, here.
There’s just something about the non-payday weekend after that sweet holiday break. Last weekend, everyone had some grandiose plans about getting out of town or spending three full days in a drunken haze. This weekend is different.
Sure, it’s another two days of having little expected of you — with the exception of what your first sergeant tells you at the obligatory safety brief. But it doesn’t feel like you’re getting some awesome time off compared to last week. So, I guess it’s time to actually do all that stuff you told yourself you’d do with your extra free time last weekend…
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Take a break from your chores or those SSD classes you keep telling your supervisor you’ll eventually do and enjoy some memes.
“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.
Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.
But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.
The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news
“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.
When a teenager became seriously ill on a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the California coast, the call arrived at the 129th Rescue Wing in Silicon Valley. Within hours, the California Air National Guard unit would tally its 1,105th rescue.
From their Moffett Federal Airfield home in Mountain View, Calif., the 129th’s rescue squadrons operate the MC-130P Combat Shadow airplane and the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. When paired with airmen highly-skilled in medical trauma and airborne ops — pararescuemen (fondly referred to as PJs) and combat rescue officers — these squadrons form “Guardian Angel” teams for peacetime or combat rescue at sea or on land.
Peacetime rescues, such as in remote mountainous terrain or vessels in treacherous sea conditions, can be just as high-risk as those in combat zones. Guardian Angel teams can venture 1,000 miles or more into the Pacific, rescues that require multiple aerial refuelings for helicopters and over-the-water parachute jumps into the Pacific to reach victims or stricken vessels.
That was the case in 2014, when Guardian Angels with the 129th were dispatched to rescue a 1-year-old toddler ill at sea; the child was on a 36-foot family sailboat that was sinking 900 miles west of the coast of Mexico due to damaged steering controls. PJs parachuted from an MC-130p turboprop with a raft they used to reach the sailboat.
The Navy joined in the mission, sending the USS Vandegrift to intercept the team, bring the toddler and her family to its medical department, and tow the sailboat to San Diego. The PJs got a ride back to shore, too.
The latest mission this week also was a rescue on the high seas. A 14-year-old passenger on the cruise ship Star Princess reportedly suffered seizures and required immediate but higher-level medical care. The ship was 450 miles off the coast.
The Coast Guard and the Air Force coordinated the rescue, sending two of the wing’s Pave Hawk helicopters — each with a two-person Guardian Angel team — to the cruise ship. But the long distance required those helicopters get refueled en route. A KC-130J Hercules refueler with the San Diego-based Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 352 launched from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
“What it takes to coordinate something like this is a massive undertaking, and it has to be done safely. Literally hundreds of people are involved,” Lt. Col. Kathryn Hodge, the mission medical director and flight surgeon, who flew on the mission, said in the news story.
When the Pave Hawks reached the cruise ship, the Guardian Angel PJs hoisted down to the deck, stabilized the teen, and hauled themselves back into the helicopter, along with the teen’s father. With refueling support from an MC-130P for the return flight, the rescue helicopter and team took the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
“It’s always good and you feel really rewarded at the end of the day. But that’s not why we do it. We do it so that others may live and to save lives however we can,” Master Sgt. Sean Kirsch, a PJ, said in the statement. “When you bring a 14-year-old American boy home to receive better medical care and he makes it there and he’s in stable shape or better than we you pick him up, is pretty rewarding.”
The 129th Rescue Wing took on the rescue mission in 1975. In September 2008, the 129th Wing was credited with rescuing 34 people (and 11 dogs) after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. The following year, during a combat deployment to southern Afghanistan, the wing tallied more than 180 lives saved.
While its location, aircraft, and higher commands changed over the years, the 129th has maintained its role in rescue and personnel recovery for both state and federal missions.
U.S. Army officials say they’re racing to find and start issuing new jungle boots to combat soldiers by late next year.
The service just released a request for information from companies as part of a “directed requirement” for a new model of Jungle Combat Boot for infantry soldiers to wear in the hot, tropical terrain of the Pacific theater.
“It’s a challenge to industry to say, ‘What can you do based on here are the requirements that we need and how fast can you deliver it to meet these specifications,’ ” Col. Dean Hoffman IV, who manages Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said Wednesday at theAssociation of the United States Army’s annual meeting.
The Army’s formal requirement for a new type of Jungle Combat Boot will continue to go through the normal acquisitions process, but equipment officials plan to award contracts for new jungle boots next year to meet a recent directive from Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that two brigade combat teams in Hawaii be equipped “ASAP,” Hoffman said.
“We are going to use this request for information to see what industry can do really fast because what we would like to do is get a BCT out by March of 2017,” he said.
Equipment officials hope to have a second BCT fielded with new jungle boots by September 2017,” according to the Oct. 3 document posted on FedBizOpps.gov.
The Army and the Marine Corps retired the popular, Vietnam War-era jungle boots in the early 2000s when both services transitioned to a desert-style combat boot for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since then, Army equipment development has been geared toward the Middle East, Hoffman said.
“We have kind of neglected the extreme weather environments, whether it be jungle or cold weather,” Hoffman said. “Looking at the way the world is shaping, those are areas that we might have to go.”
The Army recently conducted limited user evaluations of several commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, jungle boots in Hawaii.
“We put them on soldiers, let them wear them for a couple of weeks and got feedback,” Hoffman said. “What that showed at that time was there was no COTS solution.”
The Army is looking for lightweight materials and better insole and midsole construction, he said.
The problem with the old jungle boots was they had a metal shim in the sole for puncture protection that made the boots get too hot or too cold depending on the outside temperature, Hoffman said.
There are new fabrics that could offer some puncture protection for insoles as well as help push water out of the boot through drain holes, equipment officials say.
The two drain holes on the old jungle boots often became clogged with mud, Hoffman said, adding that newer designs that feature several smaller drain holes tend to be more effective.
The new jungle boots will likely be made of rough-out leather, which tends to dry out quickly and doesn’t need to be shined, he said.
To outfit two brigades, the Army plans to buy 36,000 pairs of new jungle boots, but contracts may be awarded to multiple vendors, Hoffman said.
“If six vendors meet the requirements, we might just award six contracts because, at the end of the day, we want to meet the requirements,” he said.
The US Navy sent the USS Wasp into the South China Sea early April 2019 loaded with an unusually heavy configuration of Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.
“We are seeing a fleet experiment going on right now,” Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and naval-affairs expert, told Business Insider, explaining that the Navy and the Marines are experimenting with the “Lightning Carrier” concept.
Light carriers armed with these short landing and take-off F-35s could theoretically take over operations in low-end conflicts, potentially freeing up the “supercarriers” to focus on higher-end threats such as Russia and China, or significantly boost the firepower of the US Navy carrier force, experts told Business Insider.
The USS Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration, with 10 Joint Strike Fighters on its flight deck.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The USS Wasp has been drilling in the South China Sea with at least 10 F-35s on board.
The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, is participating in the ongoing Balikatan exercises with the Philippines. It deployed with at least 10 F-35s, more than the ship would normally carry.
“With each new exercise, we learn more about [the F-35Bs] capabilities as the newest fighter jet in our inventory, and how to best utilize them and integrate them with other platforms,” a Marine Corps spokesperson told Business Insider.
The Wasp was recently spotted running flight operations near Scarborough Shoal, a contested South China Sea territory.
The USS America.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson)
The Navy and Marine Corps began experimenting with the “Lighting carrier” concept a few years ago.
The Marine Corps did a Lightning carrier proof of concept demonstration in November 2016, loading 12 F-35B fighters onto the USS America, the newest class of amphibious assault ship intended to serve as a light aircraft carrier.
“The experiments led to the realization that this is an option,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert and former special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.
“I think the Marine Corps may be realizing that this is the best use of their large amphibious assault ships. I think you are going to see more and more deployments like that,” he added.
Possible Lightning Carrier configuration.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
A Lightning carrier might carry almost two dozen F-35s.
The Marine Corps elaborated on its plan for the Lightning carrier in its 2017 Marine Aviation Plan, which suggests that the Marines should be operating 185 F-35Bs by 2025, more than “enough to equip all seven” amphibious assault ships.
“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier,” the corps said, “it can be complementary if employed in imaginative ways.” These ships, the America-class ships in particular, could theoretically be outfitted with 16 to 20 F-35s, along with rotary refueling aircraft.
“A Lightning Carrier, taking full advantage of the amphibious assault ship as a sea base, can provide the naval and joint force with significant access, collection and strike capabilities,” the service said.
An AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron 311 landing aboard USS Bonhomme Richard.
The Lightning carrier is based on an older concept that has been around for decades.
The Lightning carrier concept is a rebranded version of the classic “Harrier carrier,” the repurposing of amphibious assault ships to serve as light carriers armed with AV-8B Harrier jump jets.
“We would load them up with twice or even three times as many Harriers as what they would normally send out with an amphibious readiness group and then use it as, essentially, a light carrier to provide sea and air control in a limited area,” Hendrix said.
The “Harrier Carrier” concept has been employed at least five times. The USS Bonhomme Richard, for example, was reconfigured to serve as a “Harrier Carrier” during the invasion of Iraq, the Navy said in a 2003 statement.
“This is not the norm for an amphib,” a senior Navy officer said at the time.”Our air assets dictate that we operate more like a carrier.”
F-35B Lightning II aircraft on the USS Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The Lightning carrier could boost the overall firepower of the US carrier force.
Lightning carriers, while less effective than a supercarrier — primarily because of the limited range of the F-35Bs compared with the Navy’s F-35Cs and the much smaller number of aircraft embarked — offer a real opportunity to boost the firepower of the carrier force. “You are going to see an increase in strike control and sea-control potential,” Hendrix told Business Insider.
The amphibs could be integrated into carrier task forces to strengthen its airpower, or they could be deployed in independent amphibious readiness groups with their own supporting and defensive escorts, dispersing the force for greater survivability and lethality.
“You can turn the light amphibious ships into sea-control, sea-denial, or even strike assets in a meaningful way to distribute the force and bring this concept of distributed lethality to bear,” Hendrix said, adding that this is a “wise” move given the rising challenges of adversaries employing tactics such as long-range missiles and mines to deny the US Navy access.
The USS Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
Deploying light carriers armed with F-35s to deal with low-end threats also frees up the supercarriers to address more serious challenges.
“What we’ve been seeing over the past year is the Navy using Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARGs) with [amphibious assault ships] in the Middle East in place of Carrier Strike Groups,” Clark said.
The Navy has then been able to focus its supercarriers on the Atlantic and the Pacific, where great powers such as Russia and China are creating new challenges for the US military.
Last fall, the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, sailed into the Persian Gulf, and it was during that deployment that a Marine Corps F-35B launched from the ship and entered combat for the first time, targeting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
The USS Harry S. Truman, initially slated for service in the Persian Gulf, relocated to the north Atlantic for participation in NATO exercises.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Former Cold War rivals Russia and Pakistan are moving forward with their first-ever joint military exercises, an event that signals the two nations are working more closely together to combat terrorism in their respective countries.
The exercise is small in size – only 70 Russian soldiers and officers joining 130 Pakistani counterparts. But the implications are huge.
Called Friendship 2016, the Russian troops arrived in Rawalpindi on Friday aboard an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane, according to Radio Pakistan. The exercise will continue through October 10.
“It is planned that the Russian and Pakistani military servicemen will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups,” the Russian news service TASS reported.
TASS also reported that personnel from a mechanized infantry unit of the Russian Southern Military Command’s Mountain Mobile Brigade are part of the exercise.
“The Southern Military Command’s mechanized infantry servicemen are fully equipped and have their mountain gear with them, as well as ammunition for their standard weapons,” TASS stated, quoting the military command’s media service.
The exercise’s name is symbolic, indicating a lessening of tensions between Moscow and Islamabad that started last year when Russia lifted its arms ban against Pakistan.
The result was the sale of four MiG Mi-35 attack helicopters – the first sale of its kind between the two countries – to help replace Pakistan’s aging fleet of U.S.-made AH-1 Cobras. In addition, Pakistani army, navy, and air force representatives visited Russia during the last year to consult with their opposite numbers.
This is in stark contrast from the days when Pakistan under the leadership Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was an ally of the United States that helped transport arms and men into the fight against Soviet forces after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In recent years, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan cooled after Washington accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye to Taliban fighters using Pakistan as a refuge.
Pakistan denies that it is sheltering the Taliban. In the meantime, the United States improved ties with India, Pakistan’s bitter enemy.
At first, the location of at least some of the war games was both in doubt and controversial. Initial reports indicated that the exercises would be held in what the United Nation’s calls Pakistan-administered Kashmir, an area on the border between India and Pakistan marked by tension since 1947.
Pakistan calls the area Azad Kashmir; India refers to the area as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
According to a clarification issued by the Russians, “The Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. The only venue of the exercise is Cherat.”
Cherat is about 34 miles southeast of Peshawar and located at about 4,500 feet in the Khattak Range. It serves as a base for the Special Services Group, the primary special operations force of the Pakistan Army.
Meanwhile, Russia is still moving forward with long-standing joint exercises with India called Indra 2016, hosting more than 500 Indian soldiers in Vladivostok. Russia and India have held the counterterrorism exercises together since 2003.
Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.
The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.
That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.
Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.
For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,
“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”
Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.
In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.
It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.
“If we want an environment in which Airmen feel valued, we need to create transformative opportunities to foster a culture of innovation and then listen to their ideas,” Lisa Truesdale, Air Force military force policy deputy director, said in a release. “Additionally, wearing the uniform and having pride in your personal appearance enhances esprit de corps.”
Personnel can make recommendations in the following categories, according to the release:
Grooming and appearance: such as hairstyles, beards, shaving, etc.
Dress uniforms: service dress, mess dress and accessories (e.g. hat, shoes, shirt, belt, tie, ribbons, medals, insignia, etc.)
Badges and specialty insignia: organization badges, unit patches, duty identification patches, tabs, etc.
Maternity uniforms: service dress, utility, accessories, etc.
A uniform board will review submissions before presenting them to Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, who will then move to revise the Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance Policy. The service will notify those airmen whose ideas were rejected.
The Air Force did not provide a timeline to roll out uniform changes, but said the move is in line with an effort to create a more inclusive culture among the ranks. Criticisms have been recently raised within multiple military services that some uniform and grooming standards, such as hair length and style regulations, unfairly tax or inconvenience non-white troops.
“We want our dress and appearance guidance to be inclusive,” Truesdale said. “We are committed to considering the views of all members. Individuals contribute their highest levels of creativity when they are cared for and feel a sense of belonging.”
The service recently announced it was considering allowing additional hairstyles for women in the service.
During a QA segment during the Air Force Sergeants’ virtual symposium last week, Brown teased the possibility of allowing women to wear ponytails in uniform.
“I just got a package [proposal] yesterday about ponytails for women,” Brown said Aug. 26. “So we’re looking at a number of different things that we’ve got to work through, [where there are] second-order impacts associated,” he said.
That review is part of an ongoing effort to “improve dress and appearance policies,” where applicable, Capt. Leah Brading, a service spokeswoman, told Military.com. “We are looking at hairstyle and grooming policies, including the possibility of various new options for women,” Brading said in an email.
It was not immediately clear if the IdeaScale crowdsourcing project will overshadow the ongoing hairstyle review. The Air Force could not provide additional details by press time.
American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.
Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.
“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.
Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.
“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”
Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.
Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.
“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”
Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.
“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”
“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.
The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.
The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.
State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.
The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.
The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.
Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.
Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”
Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet on Feb. 3 and then killed the pilot on the ground, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, triggering a furious barrage of dozens of airstrikes that observers say hit hospitals and killed civilians.
Adding to a chaotic weekend in the country, Turkish forces poured into Syria on Feb. 4 to fight U.S.-backed Kurdish militias there, suffering their heaviest day of losses so far with a tank being destroyed and troops coming under attack.
Caught in the crossfire are civilians, who are likely to pay the price of a furious Russia, which looks to have picked up its bombing runs to levels unseen since the fall of 2016.
Babies on stretchers, hospitals on fire
On the morning of Feb. 5, social media was replete with horrific footage believed to be taken from the ground in Syria.
The White Helmets, a volunteer organization whose members regularly pull civilians out of the rubble from bombings, posted pictures of babies in stretchers being taken from a burning hospital.
Several videos show men being treated for attacks apparently from chemical weapons, which Syria and Russia have vigorously denied using.
Russia vowed to find out who shot down its plane and where they got the weapon, which is said to be a man-portable air-defense, or Manpad, missile. Russian lawmakers went as far as saying they had information that “Western countries” had provided the system.
Other Russian officials threatened to punish countries that may have provided the weapons to the Syrians who shot down their jet, a Su-25 attack plane.
Throughout the first six years of Syria’s bloody civil war, the U.S. considered providing Manpads to Syrian rebels as a means of defending themselves against Syria’s air force, which has been accused of bombing and gassing civilians.
But as the war progressed and more and more hardline Islamist elements became entwined with the more moderate Syrian rebels, the U.S. publicly declined to provide the rebels with such weapons, which can also be used to take out commercial aircraft. Over the weekend, the Pentagon denied providing Manpads to Syrian rebels.
A new phase in the Syrian war?
But now Manpads are believed to have made their mark in Syria, possibly provided by powers that wish to erode Syria’s or Russia’s airpower or possibly plundered from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces themselves.
A soldier from the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that Turkey backs, was seen on video with a Russian-made Manpad in late January. In response to the highlighted threat from Manpads, Russia has ordered its jets to fly higher to avoid ground fire.
Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.
As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.
In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.
However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.
Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).
Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.
Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.
Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.
Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:
Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”
From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.