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The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

Scientists examining the genome of Egyptian fruit bats, a natural reservoir for the deadly Marburg virus, have identified several immune-related genes that suggest bats deal with viral infections in a substantially different way than primates. Their research, published online today in the journal Cell, demonstrates that bats may be able to host viruses that are pathogenic in humans by tolerating — rather than overcoming — the infection.

Bats are known to harbor many viruses, including several that cause disease in humans, without demonstrating symptoms. To identify differences between antiviral mechanisms in humans and bats, the research team sequenced, assembled, and analyzed the genome of Rousettus aegyptiacus, the Egyptian fruit bat — a natural reservoir of Marburg virus and the only known reservoir for any filovirus.


Jonathan Towner, Ph.D., of the Viral Special Pathogens Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided the bats from which the DNA was extracted. Towner had traveled to Uganda to investigate the colony of Egyptian fruit bats implicated in a Marburg fatality there.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
An Egyptian fruit bat in flight.
(Photo by Zoharby)

“Using that DNA, we generated the most contiguous bat genome to date and used it to understand the evolution of immune genes and gene families in bats. This is classical comparative immunology and a good example of the link between basic and applied sciences,” explained co-senior author Gustavo Palacios, Ph.D., who heads the Center for Genome Sciences at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

In the process, Palacios and colleagues at CDC and Boston University made some striking findings. Specifically, they discovered an expanded and diversified family of natural killer (NK) cell receptors, MHC class I genes, and type I interferons, which dramatically differ from their functional counterparts in other mammals, including mice and nonhuman primates. A theoretical function evaluation of these genes suggests that a higher threshold of activation of some component of the immune system may exist in bats.

NK cells are immune cells that play a crucial role against viral infections. To be tolerant against healthy tissue and simultaneously attack infected cells, the activity of NK cells is tightly regulated by an array of activating and inhibiting receptors. In this publication, the authors describe finding genomic evidence of a bias toward the inhibitory signal in NK cells.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
An Egyptian fruit bat.

“Further evaluation of these expanded sets of genes suggests that other key components of the immune system like the MHC- and the IFN-loci in bats may have evolved toward a state of immune tolerance,” said Mariano Sanchez-Lockhart, Ph.D., of USAMRIID.

The team’s initial work focused on advancing the characterization of the bat animal model, as well as on generating antibodies that recognize bat-specific proteins and other reagents to characterize the bat animal model of infection. These tools will allow further characterization of the bat unique immune system.

According to Palacios, their next step is to build on the knowledge gained thus far to compare antiviral responses between bats and nonhuman primates. Ultimately, this information will be used to understand correlates of protection in bats and to develop therapeutics against Marburg virus and other lethal filovirus infections.

This article originally appeared on the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Articles

Iraqi woman becomes Marine on eve of Mosul invasion

As 600 more U.S. troops are headed to help retake Mosul, Iraq, from the Islamic State group, a young woman who escaped that city’s violence is celebrating her new title as a United States Marine.


Amanda Issa escaped with her family from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, because of the rising threat of the Islamic State group. The Issas stayed in a refugee camp in Turkey for almost a year before moving to Michigan in 2011 — a move made for the promise of better education and more opportunities for the three Issa children.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
Pfc. Amanda H. Issa prepares for a graduation ceremony Sept. 30, 2016, on Parris Island, S.C. Issa, 21, from Madison Heights, Mich., grew up in Mosul, Iraq, and moved to the U.S. in May 2011. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Amanda, a teenager when she moved to the U.S., remembered the Marines she saw in Mosul during Operation Iraqi Freedom as heroes. Now, a Marine private first class herself, she wears the same Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and has the potential to be a hero for another little girl in her original homeland. She graduated in the top 10 in her high school and went on to earn an associates degree in global studies from Oakland Community College before enlisting in the Marine Corps.

But her journey to become a Marine wasn’t easy. In January she stepped on Parris Island’s iconic yellow footprints only to be injured a month later on a conditioning hike. The injury was bad enough that doctors told her she could be medically separated. Undaunted, she fought back and returned to training and eventually graduated with Platoon 4034, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, on Sept. 30.

“Now, to be called a Marine is unbelievable,” she said shortly after making the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony. “Yeah, being a U.S. citizen is great, but I came here to be a Marine.”

It is unclear when Marines and other U.S. troops will join Iraqi forces in the invasion of Mosul, one of the last major cities held by ISIS. Defense officials say its up to Iraqi leaders to launch the operation, with several top generals saying Baghdad’s troops will likely be ready by October.

Articles

DARPA’s parasails make submarine hunters more lethal

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
Photo: YouTube/DARPA


The Defense Advanced Research Projects agency’s drone submarine hunter — more properly known as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel or ACTUV — just successfully tested a new piece of equipment that dramatically increases the range of its sensors and communications gear.

The ACTUV is designed to patrol the oceans without a human crew, searching for potentially hostile submarines and then following them. But the small vessels have a limited sensor range since all of their antennas are relatively close to the water’s surface. Getting these antennas and sensors higher would give the ship a larger detection radius.

The TALONS — Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems — is basically a parachute towed behind a vessel like what would carry a tourist on a parasailing trip. But instead of flying your drunk Uncle Greg, the TALONS sports a sensor and antenna payload of up to 150 pounds. This raises those sensors to altitudes between 500 and 1,000 feet above sea level.

A DARPA press release detailed the gains in sensor range:

While aloft, TALONS demonstrated significant improvements to the range of the sensors and radios it carried compared to mounting them directly on a surface vessel. For example, TALONS’ surface-track radar extended its range by 500 percent—six times—compared to its range at sea level. Its electro-optical/infrared scanner doubled its observed discrimination range. The TALONS team plugged in a commercial handheld omnidirectional radio; that radio’s range more than tripled.

Ships besides the ACTUV could use the TALONS to extend their sensor ranges as well. Even carrier islands sit just a few hundred feet above the waterline, meaning that carriers could get greater range for their sensors by towing the lighter ones on the TALONS — provided that engineers could find a setup that wouldn’t interfere with aircraft traffic.

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This is why you don’t mess with South Korean pilots

When you look at South Korea, this is a country that has a need to be very ready to fight for its survival. This is particularly true for the pilots in the Republic of Korea Air Force. If South Korea were to lose a war with North Korea, the ones who survive the war and who are captured will be unluckier than those who are killed in action.


 

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
Three F-15K Slam Eagles fromt he South Korean Air Force participate in ‘Red Flag Alaska.’ (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Hyperbole? Well, just look at the “re-education camps” that the North Vietnamese used after they conquered South Vietnam. The stakes are at least that high for South Korean military officers should South Korea fall to the North.

 

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

South Korean P-51 Mustangs. (AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM)

As you can imagine, these pilots train a lot. South Korea has often taken part in Red Flag Alaska, where American and allied pilots train for war. But the Republic of Korea’s Air Force is also very powerful in its own right – flying high-tech fighter jets that are made in South Korea. That is a far cry from when it was flying second-hand P-51 Mustangs during the Korean War.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

According to FlightGlobal.com, South Korea has 169 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, 59 F-15K Slam Eagles (comparable to the F-15E Strike Eagle), 71 F-4Es, 158 F-5Es, 20 FA-50s, 80 T-50s, and 36 F-5Fs in service. This is one of the most modern air forces in the world. By comparison, North Korea has 35 MiG-29s, 56 MiG-25s, and still relies on nearly 200 J-5 and J-6s, which are Chinese copies of the MiG-17 Fresco and MiG-19 Farmer, respectively.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
The KA-50 light multi-role fighter, based on the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

The combination of good planes and well-trained pilots is a very difficult one to defeat. South Korea stands a very good chance of being able to take control of the air should hostilities break out with North Korea.

Military Life

3 myths about females in combat positions, dispelled

Women have always been present in war, whether it be as nurses tending to the wounded or in other career fields not typically exposed to combat. The truth is, even women who are not designated in combat positions still experience run-ins with enemy fire and combat situations and continue to do their jobs.


The recent lifting of the restriction that kept women out of combat positions stirred a flurry of controversy. Even still, some wonder if this was the best choice for the military because of the “myths” that have surrounded women and their military service.

Let’s dispel a few of those myths.

3. Myth: Women are too nurturing to pull the trigger.

Yes, women have children, and yes, women often are nurturing, but saying a woman wouldn’t pull the trigger to save herself and her fellow service members just because it’s not thought to be in “her nature,” is obviously false. Women who choose to be in the military and sign up for a combat position know what’s at stake and are aware they’re not out there to play house or coddle babies.

Although you may not think of your mother going out and kicking some ass on the front line, there are women out there who would love to take a stab at it (literally). That’s why the military decided to allow women to choose if they think they have the ability to fight alongside their male counterparts in combat.

Not every woman has children but, even if motherhood instills a nurturing disposition, you can bet that it only would further drive a woman to accomplish the mission and destroy whatever lies in her path to keep her children, and her team for that matter, safe.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
Do animals coddle enemies trying to attack their family? Think about that.

2. Myth: Women are not strong enough.

Long before the U.S. military allowed women to enter career fields other than nursing, there was a stigma centered on females’ physical capabilities. To date, standards in every military branch are separated and women’s qualifications on PT tests are lower than men’s.

But just because women perform their PT tests at a lower standard than men doesn’t mean that some women have not exceeded the minimum, and even surpassed men in their ability.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
Or literally carried them. (U.S. Army photo)

Combat position requirements will not be lowered for women but that doesn’t mean some can’t rise to the challenge. The women who have broken the stigma of weakness by meeting the physical qualifications of combat positions led the way for others to break free and challenge themselves.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
All the way. (U.S. Army photo)

1. Myth: PMS will get in the way of completing duties

The biggest myth is about the mood swings that spring out of the blue, making the work environment tense. If this is the case, then every workplace in the U.S. is always tense because women work everywhere and, surprisingly, still do their jobs — and do them well.

When it comes down to it, women know being in the military is not about being pretty, smelling nice, or letting emotions go wild on those around them. How do you think women in the military are doing their jobs right now? Women are professionals and can handle day-to-day stressors and the deployment conditions just like men. PMS is more of an issue for some of the men in the military than the women who serve.

Recently, a survey taken by SOCOM on the opinion of male special-ops personnel included statements such as, “I think PMS is terrible, possibly the worst. I cannot stand my wife for about a week out of every month. I like that I can come to work and not have to deal with that (E-6, SWCC).”

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
PMS: Worse than ISIS.

Apparently, women are men’s worst nightmares during PMS.

Articles

Trump’s federal hiring freeze could impact veterans who’ve already been offered a job

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
President Donald J. Trump arrives at the Inaugural Parade during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20, 2017.


In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.

A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.

So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.

We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.

“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”

We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.

Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”

Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.

Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.

At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.

The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.

This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.

That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.

The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.

This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how the military gets ready to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours

Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.

But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.

Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.


The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)

In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.

The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.

“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”

They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.

The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.

They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.

Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,

“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”

It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Israelis planned to kill Saddam Hussein

During the thick of the 1991 Gulf War, anti-Iraqi coalition forces were mounting some 2,000 air sorties against Iraqi targets in the Middle East. In retaliation, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired scud missiles at Israel.


Who wasn’t part of the coalition.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

It actually wasn’t that crazy of an idea. Many Arab countries joined the coalition and getting Israel to join it would put those Arab countries in the awkward position of fighting alongside Israel instead of attacking it, as they usually did.

The U.S. obviously wanted to keep that from happening.

Now, if you’ve been keeping track, the Israelis don’t take kindly to threats. Or attacks. Especially scud missile attacks. Over the course of 17 days, Iraq fired 39 Scud Missiles at the highly populated coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. An estimated 147 Israelis were killed.

To give you an idea of how Israel tends to retaliate to this sort of thing, the 1972 Munich Olympics attack killed 11 Israelis. In response, Israeli intelligence – the Mossad – launched Operation (no joke) WRATH OF GOD. They hunted down every Arab plotter of the Munich massacre and killed them. For 20 years.

Only the Mossad wasn’t about to wait 20 years to ice Saddam.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
That’s our job.

In 1992, they came up with Operation Bramble Bush, their plan to assassinate the Iraqi dictator. One agent, Nadav Zeevi, was tasked to find a pattern in Saddam’s movements. Then, the Israelis would track the dictator to where he would spend a longer amount of time. Once Saddam settled into a location, the Israelis would have their revenge.

But instead of an air strike, Israel wanted to mount a “glamorous” commando raid, using Sayeret Matkal special operators in a kill, definitely not capture mission. One version of the proposed raid had commandos launching missiles at Saddam during a funeral.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

Israel mounted crazy, balls-out commando raids in the past. Their legendary raid on Entebbe featured a caravan of cars designed to resemble Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s entourage. They flew into Uganda, landed at the airport, drove off to the terminal, killed every terrorist, and then took their hostages to waiting planes in a hail of gunfire.

Unfortunately for history, they had to abort the idea. It was difficult to track Saddam because of the sheer number of his body doubles. Agent Zeevi even thought to just watch the dictator’s mistresses, but the body doubles also fooled the mistresses.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes
I don’t know what’s real anymore.

To make matters worse, a dry run in Israel’s Negev Desert went horribly awry. Troops training for the raid in 1992 accidentally fired a live missile, killing five IDF soldiers. The accident led to officials canceling the operation.

They thought they might try again in 1999, waiting until Saddam was in a designated location. 40 operators divided into two groups; one within 200 meters of the location, painting the location as a target, the other six miles away, firing three Midras missiles on that target.

That plan was scrapped because the Americans and British were bombing Iraq anyway. And in the end, they didn’t have to assassinate the dictator. But let their effort be a lesson: just leave Israel alone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 retorts that prove the Ancient Spartans were funnier than you thought

The ancient Spartans are legendary for their courage and discipline, but these warriors were also famous in their time for their dry, sarcastic humor. A “laconic phrase,” a phrase that is especially concise and blunt, is actually named after Laconia, the Greek region where Sparta was located. Some Greeks attributed the Spartan terseness to ignorance, but others thought differently. The Athenian philosopher Plato wrote, “If you talk to any ordinary Spartan, he seems to be stupid, but eventually, like an expert marksman, he shoots in some brief remark that proves you to be only a child.” Here are some of the best examples of Spartan wit.


1. King Demartus

According to the ancient Roman historian Plutarch, King Demaratus of Sparta was once being pestered by a man with endless questions, especially who was the best among the Spartans. The irritated king finally responded, “Whoever is least like you.”

2. King Pleistoanax

Plutarch also describes King Pleistoanax, who heard an Athenian orator claim that the Spartans had no education. Pleistoanax retorted, “True, we are indeed the only Greeks who have learned no evil from you.”

3. Stellos 

In Zack Snyder’s 300, after hearing from a Persian emissary that the Persian archers’ arrows would blot out the sun, the Spartan soldier Stelios jokes that the Spartans will fight in the shade. This actually comes from Herodotus’s Histories, the ancient source on the Persian War, except it is spoken by the soldier Deinekes. However, an ancient source from Plutarch does mention King Leonidas telling his men, “Eat well, for tonight we dine in Hades.”

4. Commander Pausanias

After the Spartans routed the Persian invasion at the Battle of Plataea, the Spartan commander Pausanias decided that the banquet the Persians had set out for themselves should be served to himself and his officers instead. Upon seeing the feast, Pausanias cracked that, “The Persian is an abominable glutton who, when he has such delicacies at home, comes to eat our barley-cakes.” Spartan food was notoriously disgusting. When a traveler from Sybaris visited Sparta and tasted their infamous “black broth” he exclaimed, “No wonder Spartans are the bravest of men. Anyone in their right mind would rather die a thousand times than live like this.”

5. Spartan women

It wasn’t just the Spartan men who cracked jokes. Unlike most Greek women who were expected to be subservient to their husbands, the women of Sparta held considerable political and economic power. The Spartan men were always preparing for a war or fighting one, so the women were expected to manage their households themselves. A non-Spartan woman once asked Queen Gorgo, wife of Leonidas, why the Spartan women were the only ones who could rule over men. Gorgo responded, “Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men.”

6. Short but sweet

When King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) invaded southern Greece, he sent a message to the Spartans asking if he would be received as a friend or enemy. The Spartans’ reply was brief: “Neither.” Offended, Philip sent a threat: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” The Spartans’ reply was just as short as before: “If.”

7. Spartan response 

The Macedonians eventually did conquer Greece, and the later Macedonian king Demetrius I offended many Greeks through his extravagance and prideful attitude. He even forced the ambassadors of Athens, his favorite of the Greek cities, to wait two whole years at court before speaking to them. Sparta resented the Macedonian rule, and sent only one ambassador to the court on behalf of the city. Demetrius was infuriated and demanded to know if Sparta had really sent only one man to speak with the king; the Spartan responded, “Aye, one ambassador to one king.”

8. King Agesilaus II

King Agesilaus II of Sparta was respected for his martial virtue as well as his wit. Someone asked him what the boundaries of Sparta were, as unlike most Greek cities Sparta had no defensive walls. Agesilaus drew his spear and extended it, claiming that the borders were “as far as this can reach.” When asked why Sparta had no walls, he pointed to the armored citizens and explained that “these are the Spartans’ walls.” After Agesilaus was wounded in a battle against Thebes, the Spartan warrior Antalcidas joked that “The Thebans pay you well for having taught them to fight, which they were neither willing nor able to do before.”

For the Spartans, humor was more than just entertainment. It taught them how to think on their feet, how to conserve resources by training them to be economical with their words, and encouraged camaraderie between the citizens. All of us have something to learn from this warlike people, not just from their wisdom, but from their wisecracks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants sub-hunting planes to watch Russia and China

The US Navy is looking at a number of ways to increase its presence in the Arctic around Alaska, including deployments of the service’s advanced maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s top civilian official said in December 2018.

Asked by Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan about the US presence in that part of the world, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 12, 2018, that the Navy was present under the sea and in the air and “looking at how we can get up there” in other capacities.


“If I had a blank check for everything, it’d be terrific, to ice-harden ships, but with the demand that we have right now, it is unaffordable,” Spencer said, adding that it would be possible to send assets up there seasonally as sea ice melts.

“You and I did go look on the coast up there for a potential strategic port,” Spencer told Sullivan. “I think the Coast Guard, in concert with the Navy, we should definitely flesh out what could possibly be done.”

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

A US Navy P-8 Poseidon.

“When it comes to using Alaska in the Arctic area for training, the commandant and I have talked about this — plans to go look at doing something this summer, possibly on Adak, for training,” Spencer added, referring Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who was also at the hearing.

Spencer said he and Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran “have talked about possible P-8 [deployments] up to Adak. There are definite training uses, and there’s definite ability to affect the National Defense Strategy with Arctic activity.”

The Navy and Marine Corps presence in Alaska is currently small, with some sailors and Marines stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, the latter personnel there as part of a reserve unit.

But as the military reorients itself toward a potential great-power conflict, focus has shifted to the Arctic, where Russian and Chinese activity has concerned US officials.

Marines have been deployed to Norway on a rotational basis since the beginning of 2017, and Oslo recently said that it would ask the US to increase their numbers and move them farther north, closer to that country’s border with Russia.

The Navy has also made moves toward higher latitudes, sending an aircraft carrier above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the early 1990s as part of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which took place in October and November 2018. Navy officials have stressed that they intend to be more active in the Arctic going forward.

Neller has emphasized that his command is focusing on training for harsh conditions.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment disembark an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter after a simulated raid on Indian Mountain radar system as part of Exercise Arctic Edge 18 at Fort Greely, Alaska, March 12, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)

In March 2018, Marines joined soldiers, sailors, and airmen in Alaska for Arctic Edge 2018, where they trained “to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, said at the time.

A few weeks after that exercise, Neller told Sullivan during a Senate hearing that the Marines “have gotten back into the cold-weather business.” In August 2018, while traveling through Alaska with Spencer, Sullivan said that the Marine Corps was “looking at spending a lot more time in Alaska.”

Adak Island is at the western edge of the Aleutian Islands. The naval facility, which was on the northern side of the island, took up more than 76,000 acres and was an important base for submarine surveillance during the Cold War.

The airstrip there has been in commercial use since the Navy shut down military operations in 1997.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, meets with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome to discuss the construction of deep-draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)

The Navy is currently grappling with operational and maintenance challenges brought on by more than two decades of continuous operations around the world — a situation that has been complicated by discussions of expansion and by uncertainty about its budget in the future as it builds new supercarriers and designs a new generation of ballistic missile subs that will carry nuclear warheads.

The Navy has already started returning P-8A Poseidons to Keflavikin Iceland, where it had a base from the early 1960s until 2006, when it was shuttered.

The planes have been rotating through Iceland and aren’t there permanently, though they were flying about every other day over the waters around Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — an important chokepoint for submarines in the Atlantic during the Cold War.

Returning to Alaska would present an array challenges, according to Jeffrey Barker, a deputy branch head for policy and posture on the chief of naval operation’s staff.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 man their workstations while assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 March 16, 2014 in the Indian Ocean.

(US Navy photo)

“We want to be agile, but sustainability is key,” Barker said at the beginning of December 2018 during a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic. “We don’t really want to do anything if we can’t sustain it, so that’s a huge part of that, and the infrastructure to that.”

“When Secretary Spencer went around Alaska, he was asked a lot of questions, and he asked us a lot of questions about how much would it cost to go back to Adak,” Barker said. “He was shocked — gobsmacked is what he said — when the report that we gave him said id=”listicle-2623753290″.3 billion.”

Barker said that Spencer clarified that he only wanted to use the facility “for a couple of weeks here and there,” and when asked about the plan after the hearing on Dec. 12, 2018, Spencer said the base was up to that task.

“The airstrip is in great shape,” he told Breaking Defense, which first reported his comments about a potential P-8 deployment. Spencer added that the Navy may have to pay to clean up one of the hangars.

But the airport, he said, “has a fuel farm up there that Air Alaska is using to fuel its planes. It has de-icing platforms that we could use for fresh water washdowns for the P-8. They have lodging up there that is supposedly coming forward to us on a rental availability, so it really isn’t a big bill.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA has a new tool to help track your benefits appeals

VA and the U.S. Digital Service announced their launch of an improved Appeals Status tool to increase transparency and enable veterans to track the progress of their benefits claims appeals.


“It’s important that our Veterans have the opportunity to track their appeals process in a timely and efficient manner,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. “For the first time ever, Veterans can see their place on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ docket, including the number of appeals that are ahead of them.”

Also read: The VA is looking for LA veterans to share their stories

The tool, which went live March 21, 2018, on VA’s Vets.gov website, will allow Veterans to access detailed information about the status of their benefits appeals and will include alerts about needed actions, as well as estimates of how long each step of the process takes.

Some Veterans who have previewed the new tool said it had given them hope and helped them understand that the process might take longer than expected.

Articles

The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

As if the lowly soldier of World War I didn’t have enough to worry about on the hellish battlefields of France — from massive flamethrowers, to giant artillery guns to poison gas — there was a lot of nastiness that could kill you in no-man’s land.


But killer trees? Come on, is there no decency?

(Gif: AllMovieVideos via YouTube)

Not quite the nightmare scenario of living, walking Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” the British and later the Germans nevertheless disguised sniper hides and observation posts in positions designed to look like trees destroyed on the battlefield made from steel drums and camouflaged to look like an everyday arbor.

In the constant game of cat and mouse that marked the stalemate of the Western Front, diabolical designers looked to the splintered wreckage of the pock-marked battlescape to hide their positions. According to a story about the deadly hollowed-out trees in the London Daily Mail, the Brits found wrecked trees they could use to construct what they called “O.P. Trees” for observation posts.

Is that a German Baumbeobachter behind me? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted,” the MailOnline story said. “The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders.”

“It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure,” the story added.

The trees were built to look exactly like the ruined ones in no-man’s land, so troops would sneak between the lines in the dark and replace the real tree with the fake one. Manned by a British Tommy, the O.P. Trees gave a better view of the battlefield than peering over the trench line.

Historians say a soldier perched within the tree would relay his observation to another trooper posted below, who’d carry the information back to the lines for an attack.

An O.P. Tree being installed on a World War I battlefield by British troops. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“As far as we know the trees were surprisingly successful and none of them were detected by the enemy,” a historian with the Imperial War Museum in Kensington, England, told MailOnline. “In 1916 the Germans had captured a lot of the higher ground on the Western Front and even the elevation of a few feet through one of these trees could prove crucial.”

The Germans later caught on to the tactic and built there own, calling them Baumbeobachter (which means “tree observer”) and used them throughout the war. The Brits are said to have used their first O.P. Trees during the battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915, and historians estimate around 45 were deployed to the Western front.

MIGHTY MOVIES

A veteran comedian needs your help to be the host of the 2019 Oscars

Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the coming Academy Awards Presentation, leaving the job empty for the time being. Enter Adam Keys: A veteran and triple amputee, Adam lost his limbs after suffering from an IED attack in Afghanistan that left him with a massive infection. 100 surgeries later, Keys has never lost his sense of humor.

Now, he wants to showcase that humor by stepping up to host this year’s Oscar ceremonies.


Using the hashtag #Adam4TheOscars, Keys needs the support of the veteran community to get the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences via social media – he’s even created the language and video, all we need to do is help by posting it (check out that information here). He’s also created a website, Adam4TheOscars.com, and an online petition for fans to sign and register their support.

Keys isn’t aiming for the Oscar job just because he wants to further his comedy career. As the video says, he wants to show that veterans aren’t broken and people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. He wants to showcase that on Hollywood’s biggest night, with the whole world watching.

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

There’s not much Adam Keys can’t do, despite his disabilities. As the video states, he climbed Kilimanjaro and performs stand-up comedy in the DC area. Considering how he came to his injuries, his spirit and good humor are the stuff of legend. The blast broke the combat engineer’s jaw, left shoulder, humerus, and ankles. It killed three of his friends and nearly killed him, too. He wasn’t even able to speak for two months.

When he came to, he thought he was still in Afghanistan and needed to know where his rifle was. He was in a hospital in Bethesda – and the nurse had no idea what he meant. He was a wounded warrior, but now he’s ready to move past that. He says terms like “disabled veteran”and “wounded warrior” don’t apply to him.

Yes, I was wounded,” he says. “But now I’m not. I want to get rid of that title and move past it, move forward. Move us all forward.”
The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

There’s literally nothing he can’t do.

The idea for hosting the Oscars in place of Hart came to him while watching TMZ, looking for material for his standup act. The thought occurred to him, why not? He’d be nervous, but he’s nervous before any show he does.

It will be a challenge for me,” Keys says. “I love challenging myself. And I get to help people and try to move us [veterans] all forward. I don’t know where it’ll take me, but anything is a step forward. I will hope I’ve done the right thing and made people proud of me, of us. Helping people is the added benefit.
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