Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan took a swipe at the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in a off-camera briefing at the Pentagon Jan. 29, 2019.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been accused of bias toward his former company, which lost the bid for the development of a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet to competitor Lockheed Martin.
“Am I still wearing a Boeing hat? I think that’s just noise,” the acting secretary said Jan. 29, 2019, responding to the allegations. But, then he took a thinly-veiled jab at the F-35.
“I’m biased towards performance. I am biased toward giving taxpayers their money’s worth. The F-35 unequivocally, I can say, has a lot of opportunity for more performance,” he explained, possibly suggesting that the aircraft is not quite where it needs to be.
Shanahan has signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from participating in matters pertaining to Boeing, a major US defense contractor.
An F-35 Lightning II performs aerial maneuvers during a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base Nov. 19, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class James Kennedy)
His latest comments on the fighter, which were relatively diplomatic, are nothing compared to what he reportedly said in private meetings while serving as the deputy secretary of defense.
A former senior Defense Department official recently told Politico that Shanahan has described the F-35 as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”
“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” that same former official recalled Shanahan saying, according to Politico.
Lockheed beat out Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter competition around the turn of the century, with the Department of Defense ultimately picking Lockheed’s X-35 — which later became the F-35 — over Boeing’s X-32 in 2001.
During its development, the F-35, a costly project which could cost more than id=”listicle-2627524757″ trillion over the course of its lifetime, has faced constant criticism for a variety of problems. The F-35 is generally considered the most expensive weapons program in US history.
A formation of F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018.
“I think we can all agree that it is a remarkable aircraft, with eye-watering capabilities critical to the high-end fight,” he added. “I tip my hat to its broad team of government, industry, and international partners. Having worked on programs of similar size and complexity, I have enormous respect for your talent and commitment.”
Despite these decidedly kind words, his comments Jan 29, 2019, seem to suggest that the F-35 has left a lot to be desired.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A growing body of research indicates that there are likely billion of Earth-like planets that we haven’t yet discovered.
That’s good news for astronomers seeking alien life. Since Earth is our only example of a life-bearing world, scientists try to pinpoint planets like ours when they search for life elsewhere.
That’s what NASA’s Kepler space telescope set out to do. Kepler scanned the skies from 2009 to 2018, and it found over 4,000 planets outside our solar system. A dozen or so of these planets seem like prime real estate for life.
Kepler’s data has produced a growing body of research that indicates there are likely billions more Earth-like planets that we haven’t discovered.
Here’s why scientists are starting to think planets like Earth might be common.
Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.
Most of what we know about exoplanets comes from the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.
Kepler, which first launched in 2009, retired last year after it ran out of fuel. NASA passed the planet-hunting torch to the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in April 2018.
From the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly took this photo of Earth and the Milky Way. He posted it to Twitter on Aug. 9, 2015.
So Ford’s team built a simulation of a universe like ours and “observed” its stars as Kepler would have.
The simulation gave the scientists a sense of how many exoplanets Kepler would have detected in each hypothetical universe, and which kinds. They then compared that data to what the real Kepler telescope detected in our universe, to estimate the abundance of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.
This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from nearby one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.
The result: up to 10 billion rocky, Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.
“There are significant uncertainties in what range of stars you label ‘sun-like,’ what range of orbital distances you consider to be ‘in the habitable zone,’ what range of planet sizes you consider to be ‘Earth-like,'” Eric Ford, a professor of astrophysics and co-author of the study, told Business Insider in August 2019. “Given those uncertainties, both 5 and 10 billion are reasonable estimates.”
An illustration of the binary star system Sirius. Sirius A (left) is the brightest star in the night sky of Earth, and it has a small blue companion called Sirius B.
Many of those planets could be Earth-like in other ways, too. Last week, a study found that 87% of Earth-like planets in two-star systems should have a stable axis tilt like Earth’s.
“Multiple-star systems are common, and about 50% of stars have binary companion stars,” Gongjie Li, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems.”
The surface of Mars.
That stable tilt is crucial for life on Earth. The tilt of Mars’s axis changes wildly over tens of thousands of years, creating drastic shifts in global climate that could prevent life from taking hold.
Some scientists think Mars’s changing axial tilt contributed to the disappearance of its atmosphere.
A star like our sun dies by casting off its outer layers of gas, leaving only the star’s hot core behind.
In an autopsy of six dead stars, researchers found that the shredded remains of rocky planets contained oxygen and other elements found in rocks on Earth and Mars.
The researchers used telescope data to calculate how much the iron in these rocks had oxidized — the process where iron chemically bonds with oxygen and rusts.
“The fact that we have oceans and all the ingredients necessary for life can be traced back to the planet being oxidized as it is. The rocks control the chemistry,” Edward Young, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “We have just raised the probability that many rocky planets are like the Earth, and there’s a very large number of rocky planets in the universe.”
An artist’s representation of Venus with land and water.
Earths might even be common in our own solar system. Venus may have had oceans and a climate like Earth’s for billions of years.
In September 2019, researchers presented the results of five different simulations of the climate history of Venus. In all five scenarios, the planet maintained temperatures between 20 and 50 degrees Celsius for up to 3 billion years.
NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this colorized picture of Venus on Feb. 14, 1990, from a distance of almost 1.7 million miles.
The researchers think that a mysterious catastrophe about 700 millions years ago transformed Venus into the uninhabitable hothouse it is today.
“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks,” Michael Way, a NASA scientist and study co-author, said in a press release.
It could have been magma bubbling up from below Venus’s surface, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That would have trapped enough heat to reach the broiling surface temperatures that average 462 degrees Fahrenheit today.
“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hothouse we see today,” Way added.
On the morning of June 22, 2019, astronauts in the ISS captured the plume of ash and gases rising from the erupting Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific.
Even that susceptibility to disaster is, in fact, quite Earth-like.
A supervolcano eruption or asteroid impact could one day make our planet uninhabitable. That could be the end of life on this Earth, but the research shows there may be plenty more Earth-like planets to spare.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Campaigning for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections kicked off on Sept. 28, 2018, despite a wave of deadly violence across the country and allegations of fraud.
More than 2,500 people, including 418 women, are competing for the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.
Banners and posters of the candidates could be seen across the capital Kabul and other cities across the country.
The campaign period is set to finish on Oct. 18, 2018, according to a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, Mirza Mohammad Haqparast.
The election is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018.
The rival political parties of President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah are expected to be among the front-runners in the vote.
Most parliamentary deputies are seeking reelection. But hundreds of political first-timers — including the offspring of former warlords and journalists — are also contesting the vote.
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
The election comes amid increased violence by the Taliban and the extremist group Islamic State, which have been staging frequent attacks across the country.
Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will be responsible for protecting polling centers on election day.
More than 2,000 polling centers will be closed for security reasons.
Opposition groups and political parties have demanded biometric machines to be used for transparency and to prevent people from voting more than once.
A deputy to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that so far more than 4,000 biometric machines out of 22,000 sets have been delivered to Afghanistan.
Maozollah Dolati said more equipment will be delivered in the coming week.
He said the election body will work to deploy the machines in all voting centers.
“Afghanistan’s Election Commission will work for the elections to be held transparently and without any fraud, even if for some reason the machines won’t be transferred to some of the voting centers,” Dolati added.
Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, FORSCOM’s command sergeant major, survey the work of soldiers deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to the 458th Engineer Battalion at Camp Taji, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2017.
Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.
He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.
Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?
Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.
Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.
2. Get innovative
There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.
For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.
Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.
At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.
We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.
We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.
4. Stay informed
Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.
I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.
5. Set goals
Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.
Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.
I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.
Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.
Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.
Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”
Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.
Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.
(Channel News Asia)
It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.
Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.
Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.
Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.
Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.
The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.
Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:
“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Marines manning an entry control point tasked with managing the flow of ambulances heading for the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship deployed to New York City, ran to the aid of COVID-19 patients whose lives were in danger as their oxygen tanks began to run low in traffic.
On a fairly busy night, the Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment that are tasked with security for the Comfort may deal with an inbound ambulance every thirty minutes. But on April 7, shortly after midnight, they received a urgent call. A nearby hospital was evacuating, and would be sending patients in a convoy of 10 ambulances at once.
Despite being after midnight, the physical limitations of New York traffic and the pier created a traffic bottleneck that slowed the ambulances ability to offload their patients, and as the Marines redirected traffic to allow the most desperate a clear path to the Mercy, it soon became clear that managing the traffic situation wouldn’t be enough.
When a patient in the fourth ambulance in line began to deteriorate as their oxygen tank ran low, the Marines halted all traffic onto the pier, allowing the ambulance to maneuver out of the melee and directly toward the comfort, saving as much as 15 minutes when literal seconds could mean the difference between life and death.
“Us being infantry Marines, we’re all trained in Combat Lifesaver/Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” Marine Sgt. Austin Loppe said after the fact.
“You need oxygen to survive. And even just going a couple minutes without oxygen, the human brain starts losing function and having permanent brain damage for life.”
Loppe’s Marines from Lima company had no time to celebrate, however, as just ten minutes later they received another urgent call. The ambulance at the back of the pack had a patient that was now also running out of oxygen. The Marines jumped into action, redirecting the flow of traffic and getting that ambulance to the front of the line, but as they averted that disaster, an unsettling realization began to set in. It wouldn’t be long before each of these ambulances were out of oxygen, and as a result, patients stuck waiting could suffer brain damage or even die.
“So that wasn’t something that myself or any of my Marines were willing to let happen to an American citizen,” Loppe said.
Navy medical personnel moved quickly to provide additional oxygen tanks which Marines working on the pier picked up and sprinted hundreds of meters to the entry control point (ECP). From there, the Marines manning the ECP grabbed the tanks and took off for the ambulances, distributing them to the medical staff on board each.
USNS Comfort during its voyage to New York City.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Q. Hightower)
Despite the strength of both body and will the Marines had on display that evening, they were unwilling to accept the lion’s share of the credit. LCpl. Colton Flach from Green Camp, Ohio was among the Marines on the pier that night, but he’s quick to credit the Navy and New York City police for their hand in helping to save the patients.
“They’re with us 24-7 on post,” Flach said. “And the moment that we had got that call, I knew that I could count on them to be able to do whatever I needed them to do, and we would do whatever we could to help them as well to get these patients the medical attention that they needed as fast as possible.”
The Marines have played an active role in the Defense Department’s efforts to both bolster governmental responses and ongoing inter-service efforts in places like Guam, where U.S. Navy sailors have been evacuating from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt due to the spread of the coronavirus on board.
The Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment tasked with security for the USNS Comfort did not wait for orders from higher or for a solution to be presented from others. Instead, they utilized small unit leadership, a skill of significant emphasis within the Corps, to rapidly make command decisions that saved lives.
“It’s kind of hard to put in words. It’s immensely humbling to observe the Marines and actions that small-unit leaders are making, rapid decisions on their own without any sort of tasking or supervision,” Marine Capt. Peter Hofinga, the company commander for Lima Company, said.
“Despite the fact that this is not really in their typical task group, or what they trained to do, they are able to operate within that friction and chaos to help both the Navy-Marine Corps team overall as well as New York City residents.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada railed against the Department of Energy for what he described as “unacceptable deception,” after the agency transported a half-ton of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada, allegedly without the state’s consent.
“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from [The Department of Energy],” Sisolak said in a statement. “The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along.”
“They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment,” Sisolak said.
During a press conference on Jan. 30, 2019, Sisolak said he did not know how the plutonium was transported or the route the Energy Department took to get to Nevada. “They provided us with no information in that regard,” he said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada.
Sisolak said he would look into several options for the plutonium, which had been taken to the Nevada National Security Site.
“To put the health and the well-being of millions of people at risk … without giving us the opportunity to prepare in case there would have been a mishap along the way, was irresponsible and reckless on behalf of the department,” Sisolak said.
In a court filing, the Energy Department reportedly revealed it had completed the shipment of plutonium, but declined to provide specifics due to security reasons. It noted that the transfer was completed before November 2018, prior to an injunction the state had filed during negotiations.
The plutonium was shipped from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in order to comply with a federal court order in the state, according to a National Nuclear Security Administration official cited in a Las Vegas Review-Journal report.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency responsible for nuclear applications in the US military, claimed the plutonium would only be temporarily stored in Nevada before being moved to another facility in New Mexico or elsewhere, The Review-Journal reported.
Lawmakers from Nevada sought an injunction and raised questions about the safety of transporting the nuclear material, including the impact it could have on the environment. The state also claimed the Energy Department failed to conduct a federally mandated study to assess the risks in transportation, and neglected to study alternative sites for depositing the plutonium, according to The Review-Journal.
United States Department of Energy headquarters.
Sisolak said the state filed a temporary restraining order on Wednesday to prevent future shipments, and that he was seeking retribution from the Energy Department.
Throughout 2018, state and the federal officials were in preliminary negotiations for the transportation of plutonium, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said in the press conference.
In previous group emails, Nevada officials questioned the procedure and said their analysis indicated it was “insufficient … to commence this transaction,” according to Ford.
On Oct. 30, 2018, Nevada officials met with Energy Department officials in Washington, DC, to “express the concerns regarding this proposal,” Ford said. In November 2018, the state also sent a request to the Energy Department for specific commitments and timelines.
“Now, this is all the while … they had already shipped some plutonium,” Ford said. “We’re having good-faith discussions and negotiations … but they had already shipped this plutonium.”
The Energy Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Jan. 30, 2019.
The transportation of nuclear waste is traditionally kept under close guard due to safety concerns. The Office of Secure Transportation within the Energy Department reportedly contracts hundreds of couriers to transport radioactive material using truck convoys.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A photo released by AFRICOM reportedly shows a Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum jet flying over Libya.
The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.
The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.
The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.
The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.
Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.
As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.
In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”
After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”
AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.
The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.
Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.
Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”
“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.
Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.
The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.
But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.
Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.
But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.
Tony Mendez, the former CIA agent who engineered the smuggling of U.S. hostages out of Iran in 1980 and was immortalized in the Hollywood film Argo, has died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
Mendez’s family said in a statement on Jan. 20, 2019, that he died on Jan. 19, 2019, at the age of 78.
The statement, relayed via Twitter by Mendez’s literary agent Christy Fletcher, said the last thing he and his wife, Jonna Mendez, did was to “get their new book to the publisher.”
“He died feeling he had completed writing the stories that he wanted to be told,” the family statement said, adding that Mendez suffered from Parkinson’s for the past 10 years.
When Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a back door and took refuge at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.
Mendez’s plan to rescue them involved setting up the production in Hollywood of a fake science-fiction film titled Argo, traveling to Iran to scout out locations, then returning to the United States with the six U.S. diplomats masquerading as the film crew.
The diplomats, armed with fake Canadian passports, slipped out of Iran and to safety on Jan. 27, 1980.
The story served as inspiration for the film Argo, which won three Oscars in 2013, including for best motion picture.
Fifty-two other Americans were not as lucky. They were held hostage by the Iranian revolutionaries for 444 days.
This year, the only two Medal of Honor recipients were both Army veterans, who were receiving the medals for courageous, sacrificial actions in combat during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of Spc. Five James McCloughan and Capt. Gary M. Rose, presented again to commemorate their courageous, sacrificial actions that earned them the highest military honor in the land.
On July 31, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to former to former Spc. 5 James McCloughan during a White House ceremony for gallant actions in the Vietnam War.
McCloughan, a medic, was one of 89 Soldiers in Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division who fought on Nui Yon Hill, near the city of Tam Kỳ, from May 13 to 15, 1969.
Within minutes of landing there on May 13, about 2,000 enemy soldiers had the unit surrounded and two of the unit’s helicopters were shot down, Trump related during the ceremony. Seeing a badly wounded Soldier lying in an open field, McCloughan blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the Soldier to safety.
When North Vietnamese forces ambushed the unit a short time later, McCloughan again rushed into danger to rescue his wounded men. As he cared for two Soldiers, shrapnel from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade “slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot. Yet, that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body. And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast,” the President said.
As the darkness of night approached, McCloughan continued to crawl through rice paddies, dodging bullets, to rescue wounded Soldiers and bring them to a medevac helicopter. When McCloughan’s lieutenant, seeing the extent of the medic’s own injuries, ordered him to get into the medevac as well, McCloughan refused, saying “You’re going to need me here.”
McCloughan would later say, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic,” Trump related.
Over the next 24 hours, without food, water or rest, McCloughan fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm and continued to race into gunfire to save more lives, the President said.
“Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart,” the President said. “He gave it his all and then he just kept giving.”
In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American Soldiers and tended to countless others, Trump said, adding that of the 89 in the company, their strength had dwindled to 32 by the end of the fighting.
Following the war, McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School in Michigan, and coached football, baseball, and wrestling for 38 years.
McCloughan was joined at the White House ceremony by members of his family, eight other Medal of Honor recipients, and 10 Soldiers who served with him during that epic battle, five of whom McCloughan personally saved.
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in the nation of Laos, during the Vietnam War, Capt. Gary Michael “Mike” Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor by President Trump at the White House on Oct. 23.
During the Vietnam War, Rose served as a combat medic with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Special Forces. He was recognized for actions during a four-day period that spanned Sept. 11 through 14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, called “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.
Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation inserted 136 men by helicopter, including 16 American Soldiers, deep inside Laos.
“Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much needed cover,” Trump said. “Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded Soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety.”
That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.
As the unit moved deeper and deeper through the dense jungle, dodging bullets and explosives, Rose continued to tend the wounded during the four-day mission, even at the risk of extreme danger to himself.
Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.
“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded,” Trump said. “Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers.”
When the unit evacuated by helicopter on the fourth day, Rose’s helicopter crashed due to a failed engine. After being thrown from the helicopter, Rose rushed back to the scene to pull his fellow Soldiers out of the burning wreckage.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American Soldiers were able to return home.
During those four days in Laos, “Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men,” Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, “their company disrupted the enemy’s continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives.”
In addition to members of his family, 10 of Rose’s brothers-in-arms from the operation also attended the ceremony.
“To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You’ve earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation,” Trump said. “You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much.”
Isreal used its US-made F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet in combat in the raging air war over Syria, making it the first country to ever to do so, its military confirmed on May 22, 2018.
“The Adir planes are already operational and flying in operational missions. We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the Israeli Air Force said, referring to the Israeli version of the F-35 as the Adir.
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts,” Norkin told a meeting of air force chiefs in Israel, as Reuters notes.
Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force, told Business Insider that one of those fronts was over Syria after Iranian forces fired rockets towards Israel and Israel’s air force launched a blistering retaliation that killed dozens of Iranians and hit more than 50 individual targets.
That specific air battle saw Israeli jets pound Russian-made Syrian air defenses that had been made to counter older jets like Israel’s F-15 and F-16s. In February 2018, during a similar battle, Israel lost an F-16 to Syrian air defenses.
(Israeli Air Force photo)
“The Iranians fired 32 rockets, we intercepted four of them, and the rest fell outside Israeli territory,” Norkin said of the battle. “In our response attack, more than 100 ground-to-air missiles were fired at our planes.”
The F-35 is the “ideal” platform for the congested skies over Syria, according to retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander.
F-35 vs. Russian defenses
Fighting over Syria often gets near Damascus, one of the more heavily protected cities in the world with powerful Russian missile defense batteries protecting its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.
It’s unclear whether Syrian or Russian defenses tracked or attempted to engage the F-35s, but the stealth jet makes itself difficult to find.
Russia explained that the system was either not battle-ready or had run out of munitions. But Israel’s announcement on May 22, 2018, brings in a new possibility — that it had been bombed by the first combat deployment of the F-35.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.
Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”
“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.
There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.
Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)
“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.
Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.
“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”
The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.
Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.
Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.
Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.
“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.
Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.
“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”
Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.
While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.
Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.
“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.
(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)
Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.
“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.
While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.
But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom 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.