Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Joint Task Force 5-0 in Hawaii is helping authorities handle evacuations, provide security, and monitor air quality as Mount Kilauea spews out clouds of toxic gas and lava destroys homes in its path.

About 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes so far on the big island of Hawaii, but the majority are staying with friends and family, said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, state public affairs officer. Only a few hundred are in temporary community shelters, he said.


More than 150 National Guard troops have volunteered for active duty to help with evacuations and to man checkpoints in front of the lava flow. Other troops are standing by in case more mass evacuations are needed.

Black Hawk helicopters are conducting aerial surveys to monitor the lava and check on fissures, Anthony said. At least 17 fissures in the Puna district are currently emitting lava and toxic gasses. One lava flow is approaching the Puna Geothermal Plant and Anthony said that situation is being watched closely.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Spc. Donavan Wills, Bravo Co., 227th Brigade Engineer Battalion, directs traffic May 12, 2018 in response to the volcano eruption, at Leilani Estates, Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Members of the 93rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team are monitoring air quality to ensure dangerous gasses do not encroach on populated areas.

In May 2018, Army National Guard Soldiers went door to door in neighborhoods such as the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens to warn residents of the danger and advise them to evacuate in front of the approaching lava flow. Anthony said some residents waited until the last minute.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
A member of the Hawaii National Guard observes three lava fissures May 15, 2018, at Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)



“I have no idea how anybody could stay inside that evacuation zone for days on end,” Anthony said. “The amount of gas and smoke and steam … sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid and all is incredibly nasty stuff.”

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
A lava fissure erupts May 18, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The troops of JTF 5-0 are staged in the town of Hilo, about 15 miles north of the evacuation zone. They go into the evacuation zone for about four hours at a time to conduct roving patrols and help police man checkpoints, Anthony said.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Joint Task Force 5-0 commander, and Hawaii Governor David Ige examine an area in Leilani Estates where lava over ran the road, May 08, 2018, Pahoa Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara is the task force commander. He is the deputy adjutant general of Hawaii. Some active force officers and Soldiers from the island of Oahu have joined him on the JTF staff, Anthony said. They are planning for contingencies in case the volcano eruption worsens.

Despite the troubles with Mount Kilauea, across most of the island, business continues as usual, Anthony said.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii National Guard deputy adjutant general, and Hawaii Governor David Ige (center), look at an earthquake damaged roadway in Leilani Estates, May 08, 2018, Pahoa Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)

“It’s just a beautiful, picture-perfect day on a Hawaiian beach,” he said. Then he contrasted it with the situation inside the evacuation zone where toxic fumes kill foliage and hot lava obliterates structures.

“It’s a mix of paradise and a freaking hellscape,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

A roundup of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries:


Iran

Iran says the COVID-19 illness has killed 129 more people, a single-day record high for one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

During a televised news conference on March 16, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur appealed to the public to drastically curb outings, especially intercity trips.

“Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempts to travel to any province,” Jahanpur said.

The deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran’s first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease sparked by the coronavirus.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a 78-year-old member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country’s supreme leader, is the latest of several Iranian officials to have died, local media reported.

Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.

Iran has the third-most registered cases after China and Italy.

Tehran Province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.

The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Tehran coming next with 96.

The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took its total to 1,023.

There are suspicions that the outbreak in the Islamic republic — whose government is known for its opaqueness and censorship — is far worse than authorities are admitting.

President Hassan Rohani on March 16 urged Iranians to stay home for the Norouz holiday celebrations on March 20 and to avoid traveling over the festive period.

Police are to begin checking the temperature of drivers, Rohani said, adding to a raft of measures that include the closure of schools, universities, and Iran’s most sacred site.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has canceled his annual Persian New Year’s speech in the city of Mashhad, planned for March 21.

Russia

Russia says it will ban the entry of foreign nationals and stateless people to May 1 in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government said on March 16 that the ban, starting on March 18, won’t apply to diplomatic representatives and some other categories of people.

Russia has reported 93 cases of the virus so far, but no deaths.

Earlier in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new measures in the Russian capital, including prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10, and closing schools and universities from March 21 until April 12.

Sobyanin also asked elderly people to stay home.

A subsidiary of Russian Railways Rail said service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia would be suspended as of March 17.

Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russia’s “unnecessary” decision to close the border between the two countries in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There must be no unnecessary moves that might complicate already uneasy relations between the two nations,” he said on March 16 during a meeting with officials in Minsk.

The Russian government said the restrictive measures against Belarus, announced earlier in the day, were “prompted by special circumstances and are absolutely temporary.”

Belarus has reported 36 cases of coronavirus so far, but no deaths. Russian authorities have confirmed 93 cases, and no deaths.

Belarus, heavily reliant on Russia for cheap oil, has been at odds with Moscow over oil prices for months. The dispute is part of wider political discord between the two countries over forming a union state.

Instead of closing the Russian-Belarusian border, Lukashenka said, “our dearly beloved” Russia should help Belarus beef up security against coronavirus at its border with Poland, which he called “our common union-state border.”

The Belarusian leader also said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone soon.

Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under a 1999 unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.

Serbia

Serbian election authorities have delayed general elections scheduled for April 26 until after the end of a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican Election Commission said it decided to “temporarily suspend the elections process during the state of emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak,” in a statement on March 16.

Preparations for the elections will be resumed after the state of emergency is revoked, according to commission Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic.

The Balkan state has so far recorded 57 coronavirus infections. There have been no fatalities, but two patients are in serious condition, health authorities say.

Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15 in a bid to prevent the rapid spreading of the epidemic, shutting down schools and universities.

In announcing the decision, President Aleksandar Vucic said in a televised address that from March 16 the military would be guarding state hospitals, while police will be monitoring those quarantined or in self-isolation for 14 or 28 days.

Those who violate quarantine may face jail terms of up to three years, he warned.

Serbia also announced it was closing its borders to foreigners coming from the worst-hit countries.

Vucic, however, said the border-entry ban did not apply to people from China, praising Beijing for helping Serbia amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He criticized the European Union for allegedly failing to provide adequate support.

After Vucic’s address, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told state TV that borders will be open only “for Serbians, foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals with residence permits.”

Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan

Five more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uzbekistan, bringing the total to six, the government’s Telegram channel dedicated to the disease said on March 16.

Four of the six individuals are members of one Uzbek family returning from France, the government said in a separate statement.

Uzbekistan early on March 15 had reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.

Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.

The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.

Kazakhstan had already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.

Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.

The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic that as of early March 15 had infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800.

Armenia

The Armenian government has declared a monthlong state of emergency to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Assembly discussed the move for several hours, and none of the three parliamentary factions raised any objections or proposed any amendments.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told lawmakers that Armenia would have to hold its referendum on constitutional reforms, originally planned for April 5, after the state of emergency ends.

“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place during a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” he said.

Armenia reported 17 new coronavirus cases on March 16, bringing the total number of cases to 45. One patient is said to have recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.

Armenia and Russia have agreed to suspend passenger flights between the two countries for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Armenian government press service said on March 16.

The decision was made during a phone conversation between Pashinian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin.

All Armenian educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with Iran – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak – and Georgia are closed.

Georgia

Georgia will close its borders to foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.

Irakli Chikovani, the spokesman of the prime minister, said Georgian citizens who wish to return to the country will be able to do so, using Georgian Airways flights.

Georgia has registered 33 cases of the new coronavirus.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan reported five new cases on March 15, bringing the total number of registered cases in the country to 16.

Officials in Kabul said that all of those infected are Afghans who have recently returned from neighboring Iran.

The officials said up to 15,000 Afghan migrants workers and refugees are returning from Iran on a daily basis.

Pakistan

Pakistani President Arif Alvi is on an official visit to China on March 16-17 to hold meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and other top officials, Alvi’s office said in a statement on March 15.

The statement said the visit aims at “further solidifying historic bonds” between the two countries and described China and Pakistan as “the closest friends and staunch partners.”

It also pointed out that the visit comes as China is “engaged in efforts to contain” the spread of the new coronavirus, which has affected 157 countries and territories since it was first recorded in Wuhan, a city in central China.

It’s Alv”s first official visit to China, a strategic partner and major investor to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan on March 16 announced 41 additional cases of infection with the coronavirus after 41 more cases were confirmed in the Sindh region, bringing the total tally to 94.

Dozens of people quarantined at the Pakistan-Iran border protested what they called the poor hygiene in the camps.

The quarantined include religious pilgrims who are now returning from Iran.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has declared a state of emergency for 30 days to fight the spread of the disease.

During the state of emergency, schools will be closed; prices for medicine, fuel, and utilities are frozen; road and air traffic could be banned; and borders may be closed if necessary.

Romania has 158 registered cases.

One Romanian citizen — a woman in her 80s — died last week in Italy from COVID-19, the illness sparked by the virus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria banned entry on its territory of citizens from 15 countries with large coronavirus outbreaks, including five EU member states, as of March 18, the Health Ministry said.

Exceptions will be made for citizens with permanent or long-term permits to stay in Bulgaria and their family members.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier just stopped a robbery

While picking up parts for his vehicle at a local hardware store in Fountain, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recently encountered a unique situation.

“As I got closer to the store, I noticed that the manager was standing in front of the doorway blocking the entrance,” said Pfc. Adrian Vetner, a native of Umtentweni, South Africa. “A man was trying to get past the manager and he had power tools in his hand. He was clearly trying to rob the store.”


The robber was somehow able to get past the manager and ran toward the exit, Vetner said.

“At that moment, without hesitation, I ran — grabbed him — threw him to the ground and held him until the manager took over,” Vetner said. “I didn’t hesitate or think about it twice because at that moment I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Vetner’s personal courage and eagerness to help those around him didn’t stop there.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Col. Dave Zinn, left, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, presents a coin to Pfc. Adrian Vetner, right, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd IBCT, Jan. 9, 2019, at the brigade headquarters building on Fort Carson, for his recent actions in helping others.

(Photo by Capt. James Lockett)

Six days after stopping the robbery, Vetner was once again put in a situation where his assistance was needed, this time it involved a fellow soldier.

“I was on my way to work and it was snowing out, and I saw someone had broken down on the side of the road,” he said. “Their tire was laying down a couple feet behind him. I helped him get his new tire on by lending him my jack, made sure he was good to go and went on with my day.”

However, for Vetner, those actions were nothing out of the norm.

He credits his upbringing in a military family and his father, who is a retired colonel in the South African military, for his acts of courage and selflessness.

“I was raised to do the right thing at all times even when no one is watching,” he said. “Sometimes people get the wrong idea [about] military personnel, and if I can do little things here and there to change that mindset, I am happy to do so.”

Capt. Cory Plymel, who recently took command of Alpha Company, said hearing of Vetner’s actions made him feel proud to become part of the company.

“The fact that we have soldiers who live the Army values on a constant basis is very fulfilling,” Plymel said. “To see someone put those values into action and show what right looks like, especially in such a young Soldier, just shows how great our soldiers are.”

Plymel said he hopes that Vetner’s actions send a greater message, not only to junior soldiers but to all soldiers.

“I think it speaks volumes that someone who is not from the U.S. is serving this country and performing these acts of courage and kindness without thinking twice about it,” Plymel said. “It’s very humbling to see that and it speaks volumes about the soldiers we have in our Army regardless of where they are from.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Chernobyl Disaster happened 32 years ago

Ukraine is marking the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 2018, with a memorial service and a series of events in remembrance of the world’s worst-ever civilian nuclear accident.

In neighboring Belarus, an opposition-organized event will also be held to commemorate the disaster.


In Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, hundreds of people marched at midnight to the Memorial Hill of Chernobyl Heroes where they laid flowers and lit candles. At 1 a.m. on April 26, 2018, an Orthodox service and a prayer to commemorate Chernobyl victims were performed at the site.

President Petro Poroshenko, on April 26, 2018, wrote on Facebook that Chernobyl “will forever remain an open wound for us.”

“Today, we have to do everything to prevent a repetition of that tragedy… the Chernobyl zone must now become a place of new technologies, a territory of changes,” Poroshenko wrote.

In Belarus, the opposition plans to hold a march in Minsk known as the “Chernobyl Path” later on April 26, 2018.

The march has been held in the Belarusian capital since 1988 to commemorate the disaster in neighboring Ukraine, which also contaminated large swaths of territory in Belarus.

An explosion on April 26, 1986, blew the roof off the building housing a nuclear reactor and spewed a cloud of radioactive material high into the air — drifting across Ukraine’s borders into Russia, Belarus, and across large parts of Europe.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

About 30 people died in the immediate aftermath and thousands more are feared to have died in the years that followed from the effects of the disaster — mainly exposure to radiation.

On April 25, 2018, the Vienna-based UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said that around 20,000 thyroid cancer cases were registered between 1991 and 2015 in the area surrounding the reactor, which takes in all of Ukraine and Belarus, as well parts of Russia.

The UN scientists said that since the accident, 1-in-4 thyroid cancer cases have been caused by radiation in the region.

In November 2016, a huge arch was placed over the stricken reactor to prevent further leaks of radiation. The project — funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — cost $1.6 billion.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Children’s books to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

Military families are often better positioned to learn the history of our country as they move to new communities with different museums, landmarks, and parks. As parents, we can take advantage of our nomadic lifestyle to expose our children to the complex, beautiful, and ugly stories of our nation. And a diverse bookshelf is a great place to start.  

Below are a few books for preschool through high school to add to your collection or library pickup list as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Black History Month in February. These stories will help kids understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and impact and the continued struggle for equality for all Americans. 

Children’s books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Several young readers’ biography series have covered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including the “Ordinary People Change the World” series for preschoolers with “I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.”  by Brad Meltzer. “National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr.” and “Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?” are both for elementary school-aged children.  

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

There are many children’s books that use the backdrop of Dr. King’s famous speeches. For younger readers “Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson demonstrates children’s participation in Civil Rights marches. “I Have a Dream” illustrates Dr. King’s famous words for children, with art by Kadir Nelson.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Several stories on award lists inspired by the memory of Dr. King include “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport, which focuses on his speeches; “Martin Rising: Requiem for a King,” poetry by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney for middle schoolers; and for teenagers, “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone, where a modern teenager starts a journal to Dr. King.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Civil Rights History for Young Children 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

“A Ride to Remember” was written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan. This book explains segregation and the impact of the Civil Rights movement on children at the time by telling the story of the day Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated. Langley was the first Black child allowed to ride the carousel, on the same day as the March on Washington.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

“The Undefeated” is the 2020 Caldecott Medal book by prolific author Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson that lovingly demonstrates the endurance and strength of African Americans throughout history and into the future. 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

“She Was the First”  is a new picture book written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Eric Velasquez that tells the story of the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

To further celebrate Black women in politics, consider Kamala Harris’ picture book “Superheroes are Everywhere,” illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

“Lillian’s Right to Vote,” which tells the story of an elderly African American woman who recalls the history of voting rights through her family’s eyes, is by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award-winner Shane W. Evans. 

“The Story of Ruby Bridges,” a picture book by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, is a must-have for any children’s bookshelf to tell the story of school desegregation, however, for slightly older independent readers (recommended for ages 8-12), Bridges herself wrote an award-winning autobiographical account of her experiences in “Through my Eyes.” 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Military History 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

“You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen,” written by award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by her son Jeffrey Boston Weatherford, tells the story of African American pilots during World War II. Weatherford has written many children’s books on African American history.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Published by Scholastic for upper elementary and middle school, “Forgotten Heroes: The Story of of the Buffalo Soldiers” delves into the history of this regiment and the complicated history of the American government using one oppressed group to fight another. 

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

The Red Summer of 1919 was impacted in large part by returning World War I soldiers. The violence of this time period is important to understanding the continuing fight for equality. While more books for young readers are needed on the subject, “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919” is an award-winning young adult book. Teen Vogue also has a series of articles and links to resources looking at these events that can be a starting point for parents to read with their teens. 

Children’s classics

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

A few favorites that deal with growing up during the Civil Rights movement are “Brown Girl Dreaming” by must-read children’s author Jacqueline Woodson, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor and its sequels, and “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” by Christopher Paul Curtis. Each is a Coretta Scott King and Newberry honoree. The Coretta Scott King Award is given to Black authors and illustrators to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife “for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” 


For more suggestions, several organizations and websites offer diverse book lists as part of their mission.  For more books on Martin Luther King, Jr., Black History, social justice issues, or books by Black authors and illustrators, check out: We Need Diverse BooksMoreDiverseThe Brown Bookshelf, and Rich in Color

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.


In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Feb. 5 confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.

Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
Sgt. Adonis Francisco, Alpha Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, patrols along a catwalk at the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility, the largest detention center in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.

“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.”

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.

Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown — the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.

One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in-country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.

Also Read: Iraqis want Shia militias to disarm in the wake of ISIS defeat

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as “limited,” but as Iraq’s military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition’s footprint in the country steadily grew.

“We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.

He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.

The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.

Al-Abadi, who is looking to remain in office for another term, has long struggled to balance the often competing interests of Iraq’s two key allies: Iran and the United States.

While the U.S. has closely backed key Iraqi military victories over IS such as the retaking of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary forces with close ties to Iran have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The prime minister has previously stated that Iraq’s military will need American training for years to come.

The Iraq drawdown also follows the release of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that cited China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia as the U.S. military’s top national security priorities.

“Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month in remarks outlining the strategy.

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after more than three years of grueling combat against the extremists in a war Iraqi forces fought with close U.S. support. In 2014, at the height of the Sunni militant group’s power, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraqi territory.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
A soldier with the United States Army shows off a captured ISIS flag. (US Army photo)

While ISIS’ self-styled caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has crumbled and the militants no longer hold a contiguous stretch of territory, in Iraq, the group continues to pose a security risk, according to Iraqi and American officials.

ISIS maintains a “cellular structure” of fighters who carry out attacks in Iraq aimed at disrupting local security, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James Glynn told reporters during a Pentagon briefing last month.

Glynn pledged continued support for Iraq’s security forces, but acknowledged U.S.-led coalition “capabilities” in Iraq would likely shift now that conventional combat operations against the group have largely ceased.

There were some 170,000 American troops in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army soldier leads the way after historic accomplishment

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was 37 years old when she attended Ranger School. While the average age of attendees in the course ranges in the early 20s, that didn’t deter her, and in October of 2015 she graduated from the course.

She was the first woman in the U.S. Army Reserve to do so.

Four years later, her advice to others is simple.

“You have to be ‘all-in,'” said Jaster. “Be willing to give everything you have for the school and maintain your integrity. The first week is published therefore you know what to expect and how to succeed. Once you’ve passed the physical entrance exam (RAP week), you will need to have the mental toughness to push through conditions that could beat a lesser person down.”


“Do not let ‘quit’ in,” she continued. “That means once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation, and eventually defeat you from within.”

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Maj. Lisa Jaster in late 2015, after her graduation from Ranger School that previous October.

(Courtesy of Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster)

The all-in attitude that Jaster says is the key to success for Ranger school has also been tantamount to accomplishments in other aspects of her life. As a citizen soldier, she demonstrates that one can serve their country while continuing to have a civilian career.

In the past three years, Jaster has been a senior project engineer with Shell Oil Co. before becoming the director of civil engineering for MS Engineering. She also has become a professional speaker with Leading Authorities, holding engagements across the country.

In the Army Reserve, she has been a battalion executive officer, an engineering team lead supporting the Iraqi Security Forces during Operation Inherent Resolve, and is now the brigade executive officer for the 420th Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command.

Throughout all of her experiences, her definition of leadership and what is expected of leaders has one constant: be consistent in your words and actions, and set the example for others to follow. This definition has served her well in both her military and civilian life.

“Everyone needs to be led as an individual, and each individual brings something to the fight as long as they are vested in the end state,” said Jaster. “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themselves.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, poses with her family after promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col. Jaster graduated from Ranger School in 2015, the first female officer in the Reserve to do so.

(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)

“Traditionally,” she continued. “I have said that consistency is the most important aspect of leadership to ensure subordinates can perform in the absence of guidance,” After Ranger School, I have created the three Cs – Consistency, Communication and Competence. There are a lot of other aspects to being an effective leader, but these are necessary starting blocks.”

Jaster approaches her personal life with the same care as her professional one. A dual military couple, she and her husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, have two children. Their support of each other and their children has been a critical factor in their accomplishments.

“Balancing the Citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the soldier is very complicated,” said Jaster. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.

“What that means,” continued Jaster. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”

Jaster does not want her Ranger School experience to define her. Since her completion of the course, she has advised to not identify soldiers and civilians by their race, sex or creed, but their skills, attributes and performance.

She created the hashtag #deletetheadjective for social media to emphasize her message, and throughout all of her speaking engagements, she has consistently stated the best teams are those with the highest level of competencies, not just a group identity. Being in the Army Reserve has allowed her to serve her country while creating awareness, and discussion, of the topic.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, receives a new patrol cap from her family signifying her promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col.

(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)

“Ranger school was just part of my path,” said Jaster. “It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example which brings our community together for a smooth gender integration, then that is the goal I am striving for.”

Looking forward to the future, Jaster continues to strive for excellence. Whether in uniform or out, she has used her previous accomplishments to continue to fuel her drive to succeed and set the example for others to follow. Her discipline and dedication to her family, civilian profession, and military career is a standard she refuses to let falter.

“Ranger School does not make me a good or a bad officer,” said Jaster. “It does mean there are certain external expectations of me that were previously only self-imposed. This gives me an additional drive to continue to train martial arts, strength, endurance and tactics, even when time constraints make it difficult and my current job doesn’t require it.

“I am looking forward to being a battalion commander,” she continued. “After battalion command, I am not sure what the Army holds, but I plan to stay in uniform as long as I can.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Lists

6 steps troops shouldn’t skip before getting out of the military

Every single day, service members head down to their personnel office to pick up the most important document they will ever hold, second only to their birth certificate: a DD-214.


But, before they can obtain that beloved document, they must first get signatures on a checkout sheet, officially clearing them of debt of any kind, including owed gear or monetary debt.

Unfortunately, some troops may not have had the most positive experience serving and rush through the checkout process, skipping or side-stepping essential aspects to quickly get out the door.

It happens more often than you’d think.

These service members-turned-veterans end up regretting not taking the time to navigate through the process correctly. Since going back in time is impossible, we’ve created a list of things you should not skip in hopes that the next generation of veterans don’t find themselves in a world of hurt.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
True story.

Related: 8 things vets learn while transitioning out of the military

Here are the six steps troops shouldn’t skip before getting out of the military.

6. Hitting up dental

Until the day you get out, the military pays for all of your medical expenses. So, don’t skip out on getting all those cavities filled or those teeth properly cleaned before exiting.

That sh*t gets expensive in the real world.

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Our advice, make every medical appointment possible before getting out. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

5. Attending TAPS

The term is really ‘TAP,’ but most service members add the ‘S’ on for some reason. Anyways, the term means, “Transition Assistance Program.” This is where service members gather the tools to help with their transition out of the military. Some branches require taking this course, while others just recommend it.

Every service member should take advantage.

4. Openly talking about future plans with others

A lot of exiting troops don’t have a realistic path for their future, they don’t like to talk about it. The problem of not talking to others about your plans is, you never know what opportunities or ideas may arise from a simple conversation.

So, be freakin’ vocal!

3. Updating your medical record

Every medical encounter you’ve been involved in should be documented. From that simplest cold you had three years ago to that fractured bone you sustained while working on the flight deck — it should be in your record.

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Don’t ever expect for the medical staff to properly update your record after an encounter.

2. Getting your education squared away

If you plan on going straight to school when you get out, then hopefully you’ve already been accepted. Gather up all your training documents and school papers from your branch’s education archive. You could also save a lot of time by avoiding classes you don’t need if you have that sh*t squared away ahead of time.

Plus, the government is paying you to go to school, but don’t expect that first paycheck to be seamless — prepare for it to be late.

Also Read: 5 mistakes newbies make right after boot camp

1. Filing for your rightful disability claims

Remember when we talked about getting your medical records up-to-date? You’ll get a sh*tty disability percentage your first time up anyway, but having your medical record looking flawless will help your case in getting that much-earned money — and we like money!

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
We suggest you have a Veteran Service Office fill the forms out that you don’t understand.

Articles

Navy SEALs develop dry submersible mini-attack submarine

U.S. Special Operations Command and sub-maker Electric Boat have partnered up to develop a dry submersible mini-submarine designed to more safely and efficiently deliver Navy SEALs into hostile, high-threat areas beneath the surface of the ocean.


The 31-foot long underwater vehicle, called the User Operational Evaluation System 3, can carry as many as six people. It is currently being tested and developed through a three-year, $44 million U.S Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, firm-fixed-price design, build and deliver contract with Groton, Conn.-based General Dynamics Electric Boat.

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US Navy photo

USSOCOM has a long-term goal to develop an affordable dry combat submersible system that satisfies current SOF (Special Operations Forces) maritime mobility requirements,” a SOCOM spokesman said. “Combat submersibles are used for shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply, and other missions in high threat, non-permissive environments.”

The pressure hull and motor of the User Operational Evaluation System 3, or UOES 3, have already been built and have undergone key tests, Electric Boat officials said.  Engineering plans call for the inclusion of a standard suite of submersible navigation systems, gyroscopes, sonar and obstacle avoidance technology, according to mission systems and business development officials with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

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General Dynamics

The idea with the dry submersible is to minimize risk and fatigue for special operations forces, such as SEALs, who are adept at quietly swimming into hostile areas to complete high-risk missions.

“Right now when we deploy SEALs they typically go in what’s called a wet boat – so they are in the ocean breathing through scuba gear. What the SEALs really want is something where they can get the guys to their objective dry, so they don’t have to endure this harsh water environment,” an Electric Boat official said.

While SEALs are known for their training and long-distance swimming abilities, a dry submersible could lessen mission- fatigue and reduce their exposure to harsh elements such as cold or icy water.  Therefore, the UOES 3 would seem to be of particular value in cold or stormy waters given that it would protect them from the elements.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
US Navy photo

It is not yet clear whether the 19-ton dry submersible will be launched from a submarine or from a surface ship, however those questions are now being explored, SOCOM and Electric Boat officials said.

The dry submersible was slated to undergo developmental testing and early operational assessment through fiscal year 2015, Special Operations Command officials said.

The idea is to use UOES 3 progress as a “technology development” effort to prepare for what will become a more formal effort to build a dry semi-submersible for SEALs.

The UOES 3 is currently being built to commercial specifications through a partnership between General Dynamics Electric Boat and an Italian firm called Giunio Santi Engineering, or GSE, Electric Boat officials explained.  The idea behind using commercial specifications is to leverage the best and most cutting-edge existing technology while working to keep costs lower, he said.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
U.S. Navy photo

Some of the navigational technology includes a sonar Doppler velocity log which bounces a signal off the bottom of the ocean to help provide essential mission-relevant location information, an Electric Boat official added.

“After bouncing off the bottom, a signal comes back to an array which tells you how far you are moving,” he said.

One analyst said such a technology could bring great advantage to the SEALs.

“It is sensible that they would want to deploy in the stealthiest way available. It is something that fits with the traditional missions of the SEALs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in homeland defense and security studies, Cato Institute, a Washington-based D.C. think tank.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Beat Army: A Viral Video’ is the perfect taunt for Saturday’s game

Captain Rylan Tuohy, Futures Operations, US Navy, wants to remind everyone that there’s a reason why the Navy’s leading the series scores with their longtime rival, the Army. 

It all comes down to being able to follow directions. In his latest video, Capt. Tuohy highlights all the ways  it’s so easy to poke fun at the simpleton Army. Even though the Navy’s win is all but guaranteed on Saturday, Tuohy and his team remind us why the saying isn’t “Go Navy, Beat Army,” but the other way around. 

Clearly, the Army can’t quite get it together to, well, do, anything. Take, for example, the captain who doesn’t realize he’s supposed to wear a mask over his mouth and instead wears it around his eyes. Maybe he thinks he’s going to a costume ball? Or perhaps he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s in the Army at all? 

Tuohy points out that in today’s socially distanced world, the only way things get done is with video teleconferencing … but leave it up to the Army to mess that one up too – this time with a captain who isn’t wearing any pants. 

Monitoring symptoms – especially temperature checks – is a critical component of stopping the spread of COVID. The Navy seems to be able to handle that something, but the Army just can’t get together, illustrated by a soldier who takes his mask off to show just how “hot” he really is. 

The Army Black Knights of West Point are set to face off against the Naval Academy Midshipmen this Saturday at West Point, not that viewers need to learn anything about the military academy’s mission or goals. The sound person who’s holding the mic as Captain Ferguson (who seems to have forgotten to put his name tape on his uniform) begins to tell the story of West Point gets distracted by his phone, and we can’t quite make out what Capt. So-and-So is trying to say to us. No matter, though, since we all know it’s Go Navy, Beat Army – and not the other way around.   

Capt. Ferguson reminds us that this time of year can be “cold, dark and grey,” which is precisely how Army fans are going to feel come Saturday’s game. 

The Army-Navy game sponsored by USAA is one of the most celebrated events in college football and one of the longest-lasting rivalries. As of last year, the Navy leads the series 61-52-7, which isn’t much of a shocker. This year, the game will be streamed on CBS.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A dog adopted by coalition troops fighting ISIS is finally home

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs. She loves her dog, she loves other peoples’ dogs, she loves dogs she sees in memes and on TV shows. When she found a dirty little white stray sniffing around the camp she was stationed at during a one-year deployment in Iraq, only one thing was going to happen.

“I fell in love with her immediately.”


McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida with the 982nd Combat Camera Co. (Airborne), was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of Peshmerga and Northern Iraq Security in and around Erbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.

The little dog and her mom had been wandering around the base for weeks, McKithern found out. Stray dogs are common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them. Erby and her mom were kicked and hit with rocks daily, and starving. Her brother and sister had disappeared before McKithern arrived.

Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.

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(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

“She loved everyone,” said McKithern. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”

McKithern, together with soldiers from the Italian and German armies her unit was partnered with, took to caring for the little dog. They named her Erby Kasima, after nearby Erbil, the largest city in northern Iraq, and “Kasima” being the Arabic name for “beauty and elegance.”

The coalition soldiers would go on convoys into the surrounding countryside to train Iraqi army units six days a week, with McKithern documenting the missions. Every time they returned to the base, Erby was waiting.

“She ran up to our convoy every day,” McKithern recalled. “She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us.”

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

It didn’t take long for Erby and her mom to realize that, not only were they safe around McKithern and her Italian and German friends, but these humans would feed them too. As the weeks went by, their wounds began to heal and they started putting on healthy weight.

Eventually, the growing pup took to sleeping on the step outside McKithern’s quarters.

As the end of her deployment approached, she started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she went back to the states and lamented about it on her Facebook page.

“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern said. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”

The immediate outpouring of generosity was astounding, said McKithern.

“We raised the rest of the money very quickly, and most of it was from complete strangers!”

McKithern had many preparations to make before she left Iraq so Erby could eventually follow her. Vaccinations, documentation, travel arrangements — all had to be done somehow, in a war zone, while she was still fulfilling her duties as a Soldier. It seemed like an overwhelming task in an already overwhelming situation. Even though she now had the funding, McKithern began to lose hope that she’d have the time and energy to pull this off.

That’s when the brotherhood of the Coalition stepped in to help. Several Kurdish and German officers McKithern had befriended on missions stepped in and offered to tie up anything she couldn’t get done and get Erby onto the plane. With their help, everything got squared away. McKithern returned home, and Erby was set to follow her several weeks later.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

McKithern had only been home in Florida for about a month when, in a cruel twist of timing, she received orders for a 67-day mission to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, leaving March 11, the very same day Erby was scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said McKithern. “But I’m a Soldier first, and my commander received an email looking for volunteers. The need at Fort McCoy was desperate at the time. It is a gunnery exercise, which was an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge as a soldier. It killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months, but it’s an important mission. It will all be worth it in the end.”

McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern (also a combat cameraman for the 982nd), met Erby at the airport and drove her home to Tampa, where she has been assimilating into an American life of luxury and waiting patiently to be reunited with her rescuer.

In a few short weeks, McKithern will fly home from Fort McCoy to be with her sweet Erby at last. It will be the end of a 16-month journey that’s taken her across the world to find a little dog in a war zone and — with the help of generous strangers, a nonprofit dog rescue, and soldiers from three different armies — bring her all the way back to become part of a family.

“I can’t believe it,” says McKithern. “It feels like a miracle is happening.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military released report on faster-than-light travel but don’t get your hopes up

Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth.

Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the “propulsion” category titled, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions”.


The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Business Insider first learned about in a post by Paul Szoldra at Task & Purpose.) The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or “dark energy” — a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.

“Control of this higher dimensional space may bе а source of technological control оvеr the dark energy density and could ultimately play а role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, а warp drive,” the authors write. “[T]rips to the planets within our own solar system would take hours rather than years, and journeys to local star system would be measured in weeks rather than hundreds of thousands of years.”

However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report’s optimism.

“It’s bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn’t.” Carroll said. “This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we’re going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that’s going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.”

James Т. Lacatski, a Defense Intelligence Agency official listed as a contact on the report, did not immediately to respond a query from Business Insider.

Where the warp-drive study came from

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The Pentagon building

The nature of this study is still making its way to the public.

What is known is that it’s an “acquisition threat support” reference document, which helps the US military anticipate or describe new enemy technologies — apparently including (very, very) notional ones. It was also one work in “а series of advanced technology reports” for something called the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program, or AAWSAP.

This was a larger program that included Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program — an effort to investigate alleged UFO sightings by military personnel, according a recent story by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.

The New York Times and Politico revealed AATIP’s existence in December 2017. The outlets said former Nevada senator Harry Reid helped organize it and secure millions in secret government funding (sometimes called “black money”) for the effort.

A large share of this money reportedly went to Robert Bigelow — a real-estate mogul who’s working to build private space stations through Bigelow Aerospace, is a friend of Reid’s, and someone who has funded his own UFO research for years. The billionaire reportedly formed a separate entity, called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, to secure the government funding and use it to hire 46 researchers and “dozens of other support personnel,” KLAS-TV said.

An anonymous senior intelligence official told Politico that AATIP began mostly to root out the existence of unknown Chinese and Russian military technologies. But after a couple of years, “the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” the official said. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find.” AAWSAP and AATIP reportedly ran out of funding in 2011 or 2012.

Scientists are also skeptical of UFOs, even after viewing spooky videos obtained by AATIP, one of which shows an undated encounter with “an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves,” the Times wrote.

Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute previously told Business Insider that, after 50 years of reported alien visits, “the really good evidence that we’re being visited still has failed to surface.” He added: “It is a little odd that aliens would come hundreds and hundreds of light-years to do nothing.”

The larger program that looked into the feasibility of warp drives, wormholes, and stargates is meeting similar scrutiny from established experts.

The physics of warp drives

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An illustration of a warp field generated by a theoretical device called an Alcubierre drive. A spaceship inside might be able to move faster than light by contracting the fabric of space ahead of it and expanding the fabric of space behind it with negative energy.

In the warp-drive study, the authors laid out several well-established ideas in physics.

Those concepts include dark energy; general relativity, which Albert Einstein pioneered and predicted some bizarre-yet-real phenomena in the universe (like the warping of spacetime and gravitational waves); the Casimir effect, which describes the existence of a quantum “vacuum energy”; and M-theory — the idea that perhaps seven extra dimensions (which a warp drive could exploit) may be wrapped up in the four we’re familiar with, including time.

It then mashes this work together to lay out a potential use of these properties that’d circumvent Einstein’s cardinal rule: Nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum.

“If one is to realistically entertain the notion of interstellar exploration in timeframes of а human lifespan, а dramatic shift in the traditional approach to spacecraft propulsion is necessary,” said the report, which goes on to suggest that a warp drive might be feasible.

The study includes a table of various destinations and how quickly they might be reached by bending spacetime to travel 100 times faster than light.

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

The way this might work, the report says, is by using a lot of dark (or negative) energy to expand an extra dimension into a “bubble.” Such a bubble would be made large enough to fit a spaceship of perhaps 100 cubic meters — roughly the size of a semi-trailer truck.

A contracting region of spacetime in front of the ship, plus an expanding region behind it, would then propel the bubble and ship down a sort of spacetime tube without technically exceeding the speed of light.

Carroll also said that the concept of a warp drive “is not crackpot” — Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican theoretical physicist, invented the concept in 1994.

“You can’t go faster than the speed of light. But what you can can imagine doing is effectively twisting spacetime so that it looks like you’re moving faster than the speed of light,” Carroll said. “If you want to go to Alpha Centauri, for example, you can ask yourself, ‘Well, could I bend spacetime so that Alpha Centauri is next to me, so that it takes a day to go there, rather than tens of [thousands of] years? Can I make the warping of spacetime do that?’ And the answer is sure, you can do that.”

But Carroll said the DIA report goes too far in its analysis.

“There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there’s dark energy. All of these things are true,” he said. “But there’s zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes, or the next 1,000 years, are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that.”

The problems and perils of faster-than-light travel

Carrol said warp drives are so removed from plausible reality because no one knows what negative energy is, how to make it, or how to store it, let alone put it to use.

What’s more, the amount of negative energy you’d need to reach a place like Alpha Centauri — the nearest star system to Earth, at 4.367 light-years away — in a couple years with a 100-cubic-meter ship is truly astronomical.

“If you took the entire Earth and annihilated it into energy, that’s how much energy you’d need, except you’d need a negative amount of that, which no one has any clue how to make,” Carroll said. “We’re not taking the atoms of the Earth and dispersing them like the Death Star would do. We’re making them cease to exist.”

Then this energy has to be captured, stored, and used with 100% efficiency.

“It’s completely crazy talk,” Carroll said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh, we need better transistors.’ This is something that is not anywhere within the realm of feasibility.”

The study states that its conclusions are speculative, admits the negative-energy figure “is, indeed, an incredible number,” and adds that “a full understanding of the true nature of dark energy may be many years away.”

However, it suggests “that experimental breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider оr developments in the field of M-theory could lead to а quantum leap in our understanding of this unusual form of energy and perhaps help to direct technological innovations.”

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts
A section of theu00a0Large Hadron Collider.

Nearly a decade on, none of these developments have panned out. The LHC has yet to find any evidence of particles that’d crack the mysteries of dark energy, nor have experiments really advanced M-theory.

But assuming negative energy could somehow be extracted, a planet’s worth of exotic matter fed into a spaceship’s warp drive engines, and a suitable destination picked out, the crew might encounter a number of show-stopping problems.

Interstellar travelers may lose control of their ship the moment they start it due to the warping of space itself. Hawking radiation — which is theoretically found at the edges of black holes and other highly warped regions of space — might roast passengers while shutting down their warp field. And slowing down may be deadly: Several light-years’ worth of cosmic dust and gas between the origin and destination might turn into a dangerous shockwave of high-energy particles and radiation upon arrival.

“It’s possible in the sense that I can’t actually rule it out, but I don’t think it’s actually possible,” Carroll said of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. “I think if we knew physics better, we’d just say, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”

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