A San Francisco Bay Area man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolized the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during World War II has died. He was 100.
Ramon Regalado died Dec. 16 in El Cerrito, California, said Cecilia I. Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which has fought to honor Regalado and others. She did not have a cause of death.
“He really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country,” she said.
Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines. He was a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under U.S. Army Forces when troops were forced to surrender in 1942 to the Japanese after a grueling three-month battle.
The prisoners were forced to march some 65 miles (105 kilometer) to a camp. Many died during the Bataan Death March, killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to make the trek. The majority of the troops were Filipino.
After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyber war against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to US officials.
Under the plans, US Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.
Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.
The goal, they said, is to give US Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet, and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.
Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea, and in space.
The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups, and hackers, and comes as the US faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.
Experts said the command will need time to find its footing.
“Right now I think it’s inevitable, but it’s on a very slow glide path,” said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But, he added, “A new entity is not going to be able to duplicate NSA’s capabilities.”
The NSA, for example, has 300 of the country’s leading mathematicians “and a gigantic super computer,” Lewis said. “Things like this are hard to duplicate.”
He added, however, that over time, the US has increasingly used cyber as a tactical weapon, bolstering the argument for separating it from the NSA.
The two highly secretive organizations, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, have been under the same four-star commander since Cyber Command’s creation in 2009.
But the Defense Department has been agitating for a separation, perceiving the NSA and intelligence community as resistant to more aggressive cyber warfare, particularly after the Islamic State’s transformation in recent years from an obscure insurgent force into an organization holding significant territory across Iraq and Syria and with a worldwide recruiting network.
While the military wanted to attack IS networks, intelligence objectives prioritized gathering information from them, according to US officials familiar with the debate. They weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly and requested anonymity.
Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a plan to President Barack Obama last year to make Cyber Command an independent military headquarters and break it away from the NSA, believing that the agency’s desire to collect intelligence was at times preventing the military from eliminating IS’ ability to raise money, inspire attacks, and command its widely dispersed network of fighters.
Carter, at the time, also pushed for the ouster of Adm. Mike Rogers, who still heads both bodies. The Pentagon, he warned, was losing the war in the cyber domain, focusing on cyberthreats from nations such as Iran, Russia, and China, rather than on countering the communications and propaganda campaigns of internet-savvy insurgents.
Officials also grew alarmed by the growing number of cyberattacks against the US government, including several serious, high-level Defense Department breaches that occurred under Rogers’ watch.
“NSA is truly an intelligence-collection organization,” said Lauren Fish, a research associate with the Center for a New American Security. “It should be collecting information, writing reports on it. Cyber Command is meant to be an organization that uses tools to have military operational effect.”
After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis endorsed much of the plan. But debate over details has dragged on for months.
It’s unclear how fast the Cyber Command will break off on its own. Some officials believe the new command isn’t battle-ready, given its current reliance on the NSA’s expertise, staff, and equipment. That effort will require the department to continue to attract and retain cyber experts.
Cyber Command was created in 2009 by the Obama administration to address threats of cyber espionage and other attacks. It was set up as a sub-unit under US Strategic Command to coordinate the Pentagon’s ability to conduct cyber warfare and to defend its own networks, including those that are used by combat forces in battle.
Officials originally said the new cyber effort would likely involve hundreds, rather than thousands, of new employees.
Since then, the command has grown to more than 700 military and civilian employees. The military services also have their own cyber units, with a goal of having 133 fully operational teams with as many as 6,200 personnel.
Its proposed budget for next year is $647 million. Rogers told Congress in May that represents a 16 percent increase over this year’s budget to cover costs associated with building the cyber force, fighting IS, and becoming an independent command.
Under the new plan being forwarded by the Pentagon to the White House, officials said Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville would be nominated to lead Cyber Command. Leadership of the NSA could be turned over to a civilian.
Mayville is currently the director of the military’s joint staff and has extensive experience as a combat-hardened commander. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, leading the 173rd Airborne Brigade when it made its assault into Iraq in March 2003 and later heading coalition operations in eastern Afghanistan.
The Russian Navy plans to test missiles in international waters off Norway’s coast, Norwegian and NATO officials say, as the Western military alliance conducts its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Oct. 29, 2018, the alliance was informed last week about the planned tests.
“Russia has a sizable presence in the north, also off Norway,” Stoltenberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.
“Large [Russian] forces take part in maneuvers and they practice regularly,” he added.
Russian officials did not immediately comment on the planned missile tests, which come amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.
A spokesman for Avinor, which operates Norwegian airports and air-navigation services, said Russia had informed them about the tests in a so-called NOTAM, a notice to pilots about potential hazards along a flight route.
The spokesman, Erik Lodding, told the dpa news agency that it was “a routine message.”
The tests are to take place from Nov. 1-3, 2018, west of the coastal cities of Kristiansund, Molde, and Alesund.
“There is nothing dramatic about this. We have noted it and will follow the Russian maneuvers,” Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.
On Oct. 25, 2018, NATO launched its Trident Juncture exercise, which Stoltenberg has called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.The live-field exercise is set to run to Nov. 7, 2018.
It involves around 50,000 soldiers, 10,000 vehicles, and more than 300 aircraft and ships from all 29 NATO allies, plus partners Finland and Sweden.
The aim of the drills stretching from the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea is to practice the alliance’s response to an attack on one of its members.
Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.
The United States has substantial air, land, and sea forces stationed in South Korea
As well as several units based in Japan and the western Pacific earmarked for a Korean contingency. Together, these forces far exceed the firepower of North Korea’s armed forces and represent a powerful deterrent not just against Pyongyang but any potential adversary in the region.
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)
The first U.S. forces that would be involved in a North-South Korean conflict are those currently based in South Korea. On the ground, the U.S. Army rotates a new armored brigade into South Korea every nine months — currently the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Each brigade is manned by 3,500 soldiers and consists of three combined arms battalions, one cavalry (reconnaissance) battalion, one artillery battalion, one engineer and one brigade support battalion. Armored brigade combat teams typically consist of approximately 100 M1A2 Abrams tanks, 100 M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and eighteen M109-series self-propelled howitzers.
The army in South Korea also maintains the 2nd Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, equipped with approximately sixty Apache attack helicopters, Blackhawk, and Chinook transports. The 210th Artillery Brigade, equipped with M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems provides long-range artillery fire, while the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade provide Patriot missile coverage of Osan and Suwon Air Force Bases. The 35th Brigade also operates the AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar and six Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launch vehicles recently sent to the country to beef up anti-missile defenses.
The other major component of American power in Korea is U.S. tactical aviation. The U.S. Air Force maintains the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, consisting of the 25th Fighter Squadron at equipped with A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack jets and the 36th Fighter Squadron with F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fighters (about forty-eight aircraft in all). The 8th (“Wolfpack”) Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base consists of the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons, which fly a total of forty-five F-16C/Ds. The A-10Cs have the mission of close air support, while the F-16C/Ds are responsible for air interdiction, close air support, and counter-air.
Beyond the Korean Peninsula, the United States maintains an array of forces ready to intervene. U.S. military forces in Japan include the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, two guided missile cruisers and seven guided missile destroyers. Many of the cruisers and destroyers have ballistic missile defense capability although two of the destroyers, Fitzgerald and McCain, are out of action due to collisions with civilian merchantmen. The Reagan and surface warships are all based at Yokosuka, Japan.
Further south, Sasebo, Japan is the home of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the ships of its amphibious task force. Together, this amphibious force can lift a marine infantry battalion reinforced with armor, artillery and aviation assets collectively known as Marine Expeditionary Unit. Sasebo is also the home of the 7th Fleet’s four minesweepers. The result is a well-balanced force that can execute a wide variety of missions, from ballistic missile defense to an amphibious assault.
Farther north in Japan, the U.S. Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing is located at Misawa, Japan. The 35th Wing specializes in suppressing enemy air defenses (SEAD) and is trained to destroy enemy radars, missile systems, and guns to allow other friendly aircraft a freer hand in flying over the battlefield. The wing flies approximately forty-eight F-16C/Ds split among the 13th and 14th Fight Squadrons. Near Tokyo, the USAF’s 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base flies C-130 Hercules, C-130J Super Hercules, UH-1N Huey and C-12J Huron aircraft.
Marine Corps units are spread out across Japan, with Marine fixed-wing aviation, including a squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, tankers, and logistics aircraft stationed at MCAS Iwakuni, the only Marine Corps air station on mainland Japan. Three squadrons of Marine helicopter units are stationed at MCAS Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Marine ground forces include the 4th Marines, a marine infantry regiment with three battalions, and the 12th Marines, an artillery regiment with two battalions of artillery.
Also on Okinawa is the sprawling Kadena Air Base, home of the 44th and 67th fighter squadrons, both of which fly the F-15C/D Eagle fighter. Kadena is also home to a squadron of K-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, a squadron of E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, and two rescue squadrons. Farther from a potential Korean battlefield (but still in missile range) Kadena would act as a regional support hub for American airpower, with AWACS aircraft monitoring the skies and controlling aircraft missions while tankers refueled bombers, transports, and aircraft on long-range missions.
The next major American outpost in the Pacific, Guam, is home to Submarine Squadron 15, four forward-deployed nuclear attack submarines supported by the permanently moored submarine tender USS Frank Cable. Naval special warfare units are also based on the island. An army THAAD unit was deployed to the island in 2013 to protect against North Korean intermediate range ballistic missiles.
Guam is also home to Andersen Air Force Base. Andersen typically hosts a variety of heavy aircraft, including B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence Mission, KC-135 tankers and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones. Andersen served as a jumping off point for bomber raids against North Vietnam and today would see a surge of B-1B, B-2A and B-52H bombers from the continental United States in the event of a flare-up in Korea.
U.S. forces in the northwest Pacific are considerable, amounting to two ground combat brigades, approximately seven wings of fighters and attack aircraft, a handful of strategic bombers, an aircraft carrier, submarines, hundreds of cruise missiles and an amphibious assault task force. That already formidable force can be swiftly augmented by even more combat forces from Hawaii, Alaska, and the continental United States, including F-22A Raptors, airborne troops, and more aircraft carriers, submarines, and bombers. It is a robust, formidable, adaptable force capable of taking on a variety of tasks, from disaster relief to war.
Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a national non-profit organization best known for remembering fallen veterans with wreaths placed each December at Arlington National Cemetery. However, the organization and its mission to Remember, Honor, Teach, is much more.
In the beginning, founder, Morrill Worcester, a 12-year-old paper boy in Maine won a trip to Washington D.C., where Arlington National Cemetery became an inspirational location. His pilgrimage served as a consistent reminder, through career and life, that opportunities stemmed from the values and freedom afforded to us by our nation’s veterans.
After years of hard work, Morrill founded Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine. In 1992, Worcester Wreath had a surplus. Morrill saw this as his opportunity to honor our veterans with hopes of returning to Arlington. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (ret.), the first 5,000 wreaths were placed that year at Arlington National Cemetery. As plans were underway, other individuals and organizations shared Morrill’s spirit and working together built an annual mission that went unnoticed for many years.
In 2005, a photo surfaced of Arlington covered in snow, adorned with wreaths. This picture became a viral internet sensation! After, thousands of requests poured in, from people wanting to help emulate the Arlington success on the local level, prompting the official formation of Wreaths Across America the national nonprofit in 2007.
The newly formed 501c3 began its national effort by sending seven ceremonial wreaths to every state (one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs). The ceremonies took place in nearly all of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., with a focus on family during the holidays. As the organization grew from volunteer support, a network of local groups and cemetery locations began to emerge.
Presently a small, but dedicated staff and more than 7,000 core volunteers across the country, work tirelessly on year-long programs that help accomplish this ongoing mission to Remember, Honor and Teach. That number grows to more than 2 million, a third of whom are children, who participate in the annual wreath laying events nationwide!
What does it mean to sponsor a wreath? It means you’ll honor an American hero at one of more than 2,500 locations nationwide this year on Wreaths Across America Day… a day that’s been set aside to pay tribute to their sacrifices.
This year, National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.
We can only do this with YOUR support. Your sponsorship will ensure that a wreath is hand- crafted of all-American balsam and hand-tied with a red velvet bow will be sent to one of our participating locations, where a volunteer will place it on the marker of a fallen hero. That volunteer will then “say their name” to ensure that the legacy of duty, service and sacrifice of that veteran is never forgotten.
Give the gift of remembrance this holiday season and join a grateful nation in saying “thank you” to our veterans. Visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org to sponsor a wreath for a participating location near you!
First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.
Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.
So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?
High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.
A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.
(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)
So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.
And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.
An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.
But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.
And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.
But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.
On Oct. 22, 2019, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, in partnership with the Missing in American Project (MIAP), provided a memorial service with full military funeral honors for three veterans who donated their bodies for medical education and research.
“Every veteran with honorable service has earned the right to be interred in a national cemetery and has paid the price by their service to this great nation. There is no cost to the family for this service; it simply is the right thing to do,” said Douglas Maddox, Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery assistant director. “I want to point out that these veterans continued to serve their country and their community even after their death.”
The veterans interred were:
Paul Alexander Rogers, Navy veteran (Seaman), who served from July 1951 to March 1953 (Korean War);
Cameron Wayne Scott, Air Force veteran (Sgt.), who served from November 1977 to December 1983;
Lawrence Dale Stout, Army veteran (Spc.3), who served from November 1954 to November 1956 (Korean War).
The service included a rifle salute by the Dallas-Fort Worth Honor Guard, a live bugler and flag presentation. The North Texas Patriot Guard Riders escorted the urns to the committal shelter, with carrying by cadets from the Oak Cliff High School JROTC.
Entrance gate at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
Honor and respect
In conformation with Texas state law, all bodies are cremated upon completion of studies.
“Our mission is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans. We strive to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes,” said Tyler Carver, from MIAP who organized the service along with Joyce Earnest, the Texas Coordinator for the MIAP.
The 638-acre Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery opened in May 2000. Since that time, the cemetery has conducted more than 59,000 interments of veterans and eligible dependents. The cemetery scheduled a Veterans Day ceremony honoring military veterans for November 11 at the cemetery.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial. For details, visit www.cem.va.gov/burial_benefits/eligible.asp.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
So, I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Space Force recently. It’s nowhere near as bad as critics are making it out to be. The writers knew enough about military culture to poke fun at our soon-to-be real sister branch while simultaneously giving it a solid storyline to keep me invested. And, uh. Yeah. That’s about it. Pretty solid and I enjoyed it. I hope it gets a second season, but I hope it can flesh out some of its side characters a bit more.
If you can’t tell, my normal schtick of riffing on military news in the opener of these memes pieces is going to be a lose/lose situation this time for fairly obvious reasons. There are many more voices out there that could probably articulate the proper words for this situation far better than I could. I don’t want to take anything away from those conversations. I curate memes and practice a stand-up routine that will probably never get me to a late-night writer gig. I think I’m funny, but I’m probably not.
But that’s why we love memes, isn’t’ it? It’s a brief distraction from the sh*tstorm of daily life and outside is currently a Cat-5 Sh*ticane. It’s the slight exhale of breath at a mildly funny meme followed by a, “Heh. That sucks. I remember doing that sh*t.” That gets us through whatever we’re doing. Memes won’t undo whatever it is that’s going on around us, but it’s a good quick break from it all.
So just sit back. Relax. And remember what Bill and Ted taught us… Just be excellent to each other. Anyways, here’s some memes.
On Monday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen launched an attack on a Saudi Arabian naval vessel using suicide boats, or fast attack craft laden with explosives.
According to Fordham University maritime law professor and former US Navy Commander Lawrence Brennan, “this attack is likely to impact US naval operations and rules of engagement (ROE) in nearby waters.”
The year 2016 saw an unprecedented spike in the number of incidents at sea between the US Navy and fast-attack craft of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), at least one of which required the US Navy to open fire with warning shots.
But the latest attack on the Saudis may give the US Navy pause in the future.
In a questionable video released of the attack, people near the camera can be heard shouting slogans like “death to America,” “death to Israel,” and “death to Jews!” One Pentagon official told the Washington Examiner that the Houthis may have mistaken the Saudi ship they attacked for a US Navy ship, though another official denied it.
In any case, the US Navy frequently deals with Iranian fast-attack craft swarming its vessels and approaching very closely. In one case last year, Iranian fast-attack craft got within 300 yards of a US Navy vessel.
At the time, the US Navy responded by attempting to contact the Iranians, maneuvering evasively, blowing the horn, then finally firing warning shots.
But according to Brennan, the US may not allow hostile, unresponsive ships to get so close to Navy vessels after a force associated with Iran used suicide boats to kill two Saudi sailors.
“The overarching duty of self-defense mandates revision of the ROE to provide a sufficient ‘bubble’ to prevent the risk of a suicide attack, particularly from swarming boats,” said Brennan in an email to Business Insider.
President Donald Trump has already signaled his intention to respond more forcefully.
“With Iran,” Trump said while campaigning in Florida, “when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”
For many women, their newfound freedom signals an evolving paradigm for women in the country.
“We need the car to do our daily activities. We are working, we are mothers, we have a lot of social networking, we need to go out — so we need transport,” Amira Abdulgader told Reuters. “It will change my life.”
Women can now pursue jobs that require the use of a car, like any number of the popular ride-hailing services.
“It’s not only equality, it’s about building our country together,” said Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad, who had been poised to become the nation’s first female driver for ride-hailing app Careem, according to CNBC.”It’s about community … Women and men equally now in Saudi Arabia, not like before.”
While the nation is celebrating the historic moment of progress, May 2018 the government doubled down on activists who had been campaigning for the right to drive. At least 12 prominent women’s rights activists were arrested since May 15, 2018, according to Human Rights Watch. The organization said some of the activists were held on charges similar to those for which other activists are serving long prison sentences.
Women have risked fines and imprisonment for decades
Women have been barred from driving since 1957, as part of the country’s strict interpretation of Islam. While there was no formal law against it, women who drove in public faced fines and could be arrested. While there no clear explanation for why women shouldn’t drive, supporters of the rule argued that driving could lead to women socializing with men, which was seen as potentially disrupting the established order inside Saudi’s patriarchal society.
But activists have been campaigning against the policy for years.
In 1990, 47 women were arrested after driving through the streets of Riyadh in defiance of the ban. The movement grew stronger in 2007 when a group calling itself the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia petitioned then-King Abdullah to repeal the rule. On International Women’s Day in 2008, the movement’s cofounder Wajeha Huwaider filmed herself driving and posted the video on YouTube, which received international media attention.
(Photo by Andrew A. Shenouda)
The movement has continued to grow over the years.
Because of her activism, Al-Sharif was detained and released several times, and told not to drive or discuss her situation with the media. Manal has written several books, including Daring to Drive: a Saudi Woman’s Awakening. She is seen as one of the world’s most influential women on the subject. She now resides in Australia and remains an active critic of the Saudi government, using her experience to push for change.
“I got involved with the [Women2Drive] campaign because women were invisible. It almost feels like women don’t exist in Saudi Arabia,” she told Business Insider.
She says many factors have influenced the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia.
“It is institutional oppression, and it’s carried out not only through policy, but also a general attitude that men have towards women,” she said. “We are faced with two evils: The government restricts women with policy, and male guardians restrict women through culture.”
She said a woman’s place in society starts young, with young girls going through “systematic humiliation” from primary school through college. She says girls should be nurtured to become confident leaders, not mired in shame.
Still, Al-Sharif says she has been amazed by the pace of change in Saudi Arabia over the last year. Since Mohammed Bin Salman ascended to power, the country has lifted its ban on cinemas, appointed women to positions of power, and allowed women to attend soccer matches at major stadiums.
“King Abdullah wanted to make changes for women but wasn’t able to do a lot because of internal politics,” she said. “Mohammed Bin Salman has been pushing real change, and has been paving the way for full inclusion of women in the economy and society.”
The 32-year-old Crown Prince has been pushing for modernization and a complete economic and cultural overhaul in the country through his Vision2030 program. Al-Sharif says Prince Mohammed’s desire to revamp the economy has resulted in major policy changes for women.
“The government is realizing how important it is to the economy to educate and include women,” she said. “They have no choice — the economy is our best reformer.”
But Al-Sharif says there is a lot of work to do.
“Lifting the ban on women’s driving didn’t come overnight, it’s been consistent campaigning to change people’s consciousness.”
Al-Sharif says change needs to happen in “all facets of society,” from education to policy to media, and even home life.
She is now campaigning to end Saudi Arabia’s restrictive guardianship laws, which require men to make decisions for women on matters including education, health care, and travel.
“Destructive behavior needs to end and we need to create a culture of respect. Policy can change, but its the attitude that is the real obstacle.”
A bright future for Saudi women, but a long way to go
Dr. Lina Abirafeh, the director at the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, told Business Insider that she has seen surface-level changes enhancing women’s rights, but Saudi society has some work left to do.
“Positive steps are being taken but Saudi Arabia still lags behind in terms of women’s rights. Saudi Arabia ranks very low in measures for gender equality compared to other countries.”
She noted that in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, ranking health, education, economic, and political engagement, Saudi Arabia ranked at 141 out of the 144 countries listed.
Abirafeh said small changes in the last year have impacted women’s quality of life, and signal positive change to come.
“The ban on driving had long served as a symbol of the country’s repressive attitude towards women and their denial of women’s rights and fundamental freedoms,”Abirafeh said, adding that there are many other inequalities that need to be addressed.
“Driving is clearly the most symbolic — and visible. This in a society where men and women hardly interact, and where women need a male guardian to make decisions and give permissions on their behalf.”
“These recent changes are important, but they come with many conditions and caveats. There might be a strategy to appear liberal in the global arena but it is hard to tell if there is genuine intention for real change within the society — or if these are tokenistic,” she said.
She believes Saudi Arabia can do much more for reform at all levels, including repealing laws that discriminate against women, reviewing the country’s extreme interpretations of religious texts that deny women freedom of mobility and bodily autonomy, and reaching out to communities to change the patriarchal ethos that exists.
“There is a need to progress gradually but also to be clear that the goal is full equality — without exceptions,” Abirafeh said.
She remains hopeful for the future, but is not convinced that Saudi society is prepared for full equality and the implications that come with it.
“Inequalities are many, and attitudes will take a long time to change. It doesn’t seem that there is broad-based buy-in to women’s rights among the population — yet. And as long as patriarchy prevails, this is a clear impediment to women achieving full rights and equality.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. (Wikimedia Commons)
Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.
The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.
But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.
Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.
On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.
“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.
A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.
According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.
Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.
“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.
But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.
“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”
In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.
“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.
The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.
While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”
“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.
Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.
A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.
“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.
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.