In back, from left to right, Maj. Gen. Matthew P. Beevers, WO1 Ge Xiong, CW2 Irvin Hernandez, CW5 Kipp Goding, CW5 Joseph Rosamond, CW2 Brady Hlebain, Sgt. Cameron Powell, and Sgt. George Esquivel Jr. (White House)
Earlier this week, the Creek Fire had burned over 200,000 acres, prompted multiple evacuation orders, and trapped hundreds of people. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and activated the California National Guard to support efforts to combat the wildfires and conduct rescues. On September 5, two California National Guard aircrews braved the high winds, thick smoke, and scorching flames to rescue more than 200 people trapped in campgrounds by the fire. On September 14, Chief Warrant Officers Joseph Rosamond, Kipp Goding, Irvin Hernandez, Brady Hlebain, Ge Xiong; and Sergeants George Esquival Jr. and Cameron Powell were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions by President Trump.
President Trump presents the soldiers with their awards. (White House)
On September 5, helicopters of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade were flying in support of firefighting efforts against the Creek Fire. That evening, a UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook crew were tasked with rescuing families trapped by the fire at the Mammoth Pool Campground. En route to the rescue site, state, local, and headquarters officials notified the crews that the mission was too dangerous and instructed them to turn back. However, with selfless determination, both crews continued their mission of mercy into the smoke and flames.
Night set in and, coupled with the thick black smoke rising from the fire below, visibility was nearly zero. Using their night vision goggles, expert flying skill, and professional coordination and teamwork, the aircrews reached the campground. They loaded as many of the victims as they could, many of whom were injured and badly burned, onto the two helicopters and began the perilous flight back through the smoke.
Upon returning and unloading their passengers, they turned right around and made a second rescue flight. After their second return, they were told not to conduct further rescues that night. “You cannot do this,” a supervisor told them. “You cannot do it again.” They did. The third flight was made through even thicker smoke as the fire burned hard into the night. Despite this, both crews successfully completed a grueling 10-hour mission and rescued 242 people.
Dozens of evacuees aboard the Chinook on the night of September 5 (CA National Guard)
Less than 48 hours after the Mammoth Pool mission, both crews flew another treacherous aerial rescue mission. On the first two attempts, the fire forced them to turn back and they were again advised not to proceed. “You must abort the mission,” they were told by officials. They chose to make a third attempt and successfully rescued another 50 people. In the week following these rescues, both crews have continued to fly missions to save stranded individuals threatened by the fire. Their bravery and valor distinguished them and earned them the nation’s highest flying honor.
At a ceremony held at a CAL FIRE Hangar in McClellan Park, CA, all seven soldiers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Trump. Behind them were the aircraft that they skillfully crewed into the fire on their rescues. In attendance were distinguished guests including Major General Matthew Beevers, Representatives Doug LaMalfa, Tom McClintock, and Greg Walden, and Governor Gavin Newsom.
The aircraft crewed by the awardees (White House)
President Trump praised the soldiers for the selfless service and dedication to duty. “Our nation is strong because of remarkable individuals like these service members. In the midst of our greatest trials and biggest challenges, America prevails because of the brave and selfless patriots who risk everything so that they may save lives of people, in many cases, that they don’t know,” the President said. “Today, our country honors their courage, and we are inspired by their example, and we thank God for the blessing and all our blessings that you’re safe.”
Following the President’s remarks, the orders were posted awarding the Distinguished Flying Cross to CW5 Rosamond, CW5 Goding, CW2 Hlebain, CW2 Hernandez, WO1 Ge Xiong, Sgt. Esquivel Jr., and Sgt. Powell. The actions of these brave soldiers reflect the American spirit of strength and perseverance through adversity. President Trump recognized this when he told the soldiers, “Your unyielding determination lifts our nation. You’re what makes our nation great.”
UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.
After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.
“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
One of the men accused of poisoning a former Russian spy in England has been identified as a high-ranking member of Russia’s intelligence service.
The UK in early September 2018 accused two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the names were most likely aliases.
Ruslan Boshirov, one of the men accused of poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
According to Bellingcat, throughout his career, Chepiga had been given multiple rewards for his services, including the title of Hero of the Russian Federation — the highest award in the state, typically given by the president to a handful of people in a secret ceremony, according to the BBC.
It suggests Putin was aware of Chepiga’s identity, which would seem to disprove the Russian president’s claim that he didn’t know who Boshirov and Petrov were.
Bellingcat’s findings also cast doubt on Russia’s claims that Boshirov and Petrov were civilians and that the government had no knowledge of the Skripal attack.
The findings are also in line with the British government’s claim, citing security and intelligence agencies’ investigations, that Boshirov and Petrov were officers from Russia’s intelligence services.
May has also said that authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from senior members of the Russian government.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, called Bellingcat’s findings “a new portion of fake news.”
Surveillance footage of Alexander Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day Skripal collapsed.
Zakharova said on Facebook, according to a translation by Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency, “There is no evidence, so they” — the UK — “continue the information campaign, the main task of which is to divert attention from the main question: ‘What happened in Salisbury?'”
The UK has issued international arrest warrants for the two men, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement to Business Insider. However, Russia does not extradite its nationals.
Gavin Williamson, the UK’s defense secretary, appeared to confirm Bellingcat’s findings in a tweet on Sept. 26, 2018 that he appears to have later deleted.
“The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel,” he wrote. “I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case.”
A spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defense told Business Insider that Williamson’s tweet, which was posted on his constituency’s account, was unrelated to his role as defense secretary. Williamson’s constituency office did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The British Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Office, and Metropolitan Police all declined to comment on Bellingcat’s findings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Force is constantly out of balance. First Anakin was supposed to bring balance, but he turned into a cyborg sociopath. Then Luke was meant to bring balance; he screwed the pooch as well though. Now here we are hoping Rey is able to put a US Marine in his place and finally balance the damn thing out.
The above is a serious imbalance in a galaxy far far away a long ass time ago. The imbalance I’m about to help you correct is a whole lot simpler and straight forward.
It’s the balance of strength and function between the front and back of your upper body. If you have a serious imbalance, you may be suffering from postural discomfort, pain, or significant stalls in your training. You don’t need a Jedi to solve this, all you need is basic knowledge of the push:pull ratio.
Vertical and horizontal pushes and pulls are what you should be counting when it comes to your upper body ratio.
What the ratio means
You may have noticed some training plans online are broken up into three separate training days: push day, pull day, and legs day. The push and pull days refer to the upper body.
Pulling muscles are those that help you pull. They’re located on the back.
Pushing muscles are the muscles that help you push. They’re located on the front side of the body.
In order to maintain a balanced posture and ability, the front and back of the upper body need to be somewhat even in strength and capability.
Sloped shoulders? You may be doing too many pushes and need to add in more pulls.
When things are stronger one way or another, you see people with posture that just doesn’t look right, not to mention their ability to apply force AKA strength.
All training plans can be broken down in a ratio of push related to pull to see where their focus is. You just count the pressing movements and pulling movement, then reduce the fraction. Don’t freak out, I know fractions are intimidating, it’s typically really small numbers like 4:4 or 8:6. We just reduce those down to 1:1 and 2:1.5 respectively.
For instance, the Mighty Fit plan is a 1-to-1 push-to-pull ratio. That very simply means that for every push exercise that you do, you also do a pull exercise.
Time to add in more pulls. Horizontal 1-arm rows are a great exercise to help balance out an overactive chest.
If your chest and front delts are particularly large and tight, they will pull your shoulders and scapulae forward and give you that rounded upper back look. Strengthening your back muscles like your lower traps, rhomboids, and lats will bring some balance into your posture and relieve you of any discomfort.
Training all chest and sitting at a computer all day is a very common lifestyle for most of us. I’m guilty of it, and just about every peer of mine in the Marine Corps was the same.
The easiest way to correct an upper-body imbalance is to change your push/pull ratio. If you have forward shoulders from sitting at a computer all day, switch to a push/pull of 1:2. Do one push exercise for every two pull exercises.[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BdP21ywHLar/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “Talking Programming Now . Antagonist pair sets are a great way to program your exercise selection. . Push Pull is a great way to program…”
If your back is overactive and tight, often seen in surfers, your shoulder blades will be pinched together, and chest will be open. This is from a strong back and a weak front. Presses and push-ups will bring balance back into this person.
If your job has you hiking a lot, you may be used to having your shoulders pulled back and together. If your nipples are facing the sky or you can barely get 2-3 fingers between your shoulder blades, this is you.
Changing your push:pull ratio to 2:1 may help your chest take some control in your upper body.
In addition, when you do conduct pull exercises, ensure that you are allowing your shoulder blades to move with the movement. Don’t lock them back and together (like you do in heavy bench presses with your back pinned into a bench).
The biceps are actually a pulling muscle and the triceps are a pushing muscle. Check out the arm primer article for how to train these further.
If you have mild pain, discomfort, or a noticeable strength imbalance your first step to remedy things should be to change your push:pull ratio. It’s a simple solution to a problem that will prevent some “bodywork expert” from getting involved. You have the power, and now, the tool to bring balance to your internal upper body force production.
In the Mighty Fit plan, there is a pressing movement everyday set up as a push/pull set that is paired with a pulling movement. You’ll gain ample size and functionality in your upper body over the duration of the plan. If you are starting from a place of imbalance now you have all the information you need to change the plan to suit your exact needs; add a push or pull!
If you haven’t started the Mighty Fit plan yet…what are you waiting for? Click the link in the left navigation bar of this site page.
Russian strategic bombers on July 5 struck the Islamic State group in Syria with cruise missiles, the military said.
The Defense Ministry said that Tu-95 bombers launched Kh-101 cruise missiles on IS facilities in the area along the boundary between the Syrian provinces of Hama and Homs. The ministry said three ammunition depots and a command facility near the town of Aqirbat were destroyed.
It said the bombers flew from their base in southwestern Russia and launched the missiles at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the target.
Russia has waged an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The Russian military has used the campaign to test its latest weapons, including long-range cruise missiles, in combat for the first time.
Meanwhile, a two-day round of Syria cease-fire talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, ended without conclusive results. The Syrian government and the opposition blamed each other for the failure to reach agreement.
The negotiations, brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, were to finalize specifics related to so-called de-escalation zones, including their boundaries and monitoring mechanisms. But the talks failed to produce a deal, with the parties agreeing only to set up a working group to continue discussions.
“We so far have failed to agree on de-escalation zones, but we will continue efforts to achieve that goal,” Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentyev said after the talks, according to Russian news reports.
Lavrentyev said that Russia plans to deploy its military police to help monitor de-escalation zones and called on Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet nations to also send monitors. He said police will have light arms to protect themselves.
Lavrentyev also noted that the involvement of the United States and Jordan would be essential for setting up a de-escalation zone in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.
Syria’s warring sides have held four previous rounds of talks in Kazakhstan since January, in parallel to the UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. Neither process has made much progress. A cease-fire declared in May, has been repeatedly violated.
In a day and age where the United States Air Force has a grand total of 76 B-52H Stratofortress, 62 B-1B Lancer, and 20 B-2A Spirit bombers in service, it’s fair to say the United States’ bomber force is quite potent. That said, there aren’t as many in service as there once were.
One plane that once supplemented the bomber force quite well was the F-111 Aardvark. This was a fast, all-weather strike plane that was originally designed to serve both the Air Force and Navy, much like today’s Joint Strike Fighter. While the Navy version didn’t pan out, the Aardvark, after some teething problems, emerged as a reliable strike asset by 1972.
The F-111 could deliver payload. According to Christopher Chant’s Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Aardvark could haul as many as 36 Mk 82 500-pound dumb bombs. By comparison, the B-52 can haul 51 of those same bombs. So, in terms of load, each Aardvark accounted for 70.5 percent of a legendary BUFF.
This F-111 has Durandal runway-cratering bombs loaded. As you can see, it carries a lot.
As aviation historian Joe Baugher noted, during the F-111A’s deployment to Vietnam as part of Operation Linebacker II, each F-111 was capable of dropping the bomb load of five F-4 Phantoms. Not only could the F-111 deliver one hell of a payload, it could do so very accurately due to advanced radars.
This F-111F is being prepared for the April, 1986, strike on Libya.
Three newer models of the F-111 — the F-111D, F-111E, and F-111F — all entered service in the 1970s. None of these variants saw action in the Vietnam War, but saw plenty of action elsewhere. The F-111F played a key role in the April, 1986, strikes on Libya and both the F-111E and F-111F saw action in Desert Storm.
An F-111 drops two dozen Mk 82 500-pound bombs – about half the load a B-52 can carry.
An electronic warfare version of the F-111, the EF-111A, also played a key role in Desert Storm — one even scored a maneuver kill against an Iraqi Mirage F-1!
The US has linked a mysterious illness contracted by a government employee in China to strange sounds heard by US diplomats in Cuba for the first time.
In an unusual move on June 8, 2018, the US Embassy in China sent out its second health advisory in two weeks warning US citizens to contact a doctor if they feel unwell and to not try to locate the source of “any unidentified auditory sensation.”
But the US seems to have confirmed the link between the two incidents.
“The State Department received medical confirmation that a US government employee in China suffered a medical incident consistent with what other US government personnel experienced in Havana, Cuba,” the advisory read.
It also advised any US citizen, or their family members, who experience “any unusual, unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena, or other health concerns” to contact their doctor. Symptoms citizens were urged to look out for include dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints, hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.
(Photo by Nelson Runkle)
These are the same symptoms victims in Havana, of which there are more than 20, reported experiencing. Some of those individuals didn’t feel or hear anything strange, but others reported hearing strange noises that some have linked to “sonic attacks.”
Despite Trump blaming Cuba, Cuban officials have denied any involvement. The State Department distanced itself from Trump’s claim, but it did expel 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington in 2017.
AP recently reported the US State Department has determined the incidents in Cuba were “specific attacks” on diplomats is trying to cut staffing numbers by more than 50%.
“At this time, 24 U.S. government personnel and family members who served in Cuba have been medically-confirmed as having symptoms and clinical findings similar to those noted following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury. On May 16, 2018, a U.S. government employee serving in China was medically-confirmed with similar findings,” Pompeo said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With the spread of the coronavirus around the country, we saw the unprecedented stoppage of sporting events around the world and in the United States. Starting with several universities canceling conference tournaments, the NCAA decided to ban crowds from its venerable tournament. That alone was big news until the NBA suspended operations after a player tested positive. The resulting snowball turned into an avalanche the likes of which we have never seen. Play stopped after 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, but not like this. We will see how things shape up long-term but in the meantime, we can start to wonder what comes next.
After the positive test of Rudy Gobert (two days after his ill-conceived hijnks with the press corps’ mics and recorders), the NBA immediately suspended operations. While Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner said that it would be about 30 days at this point, the season could still be in jeopardy if the spread of the coronavirus worsens.
We can be looking at the NBA picking up with the playoffs and running them into July. Not a bad prospect, but there are many things to consider outside of the virus. The NBA has to worry about TV revenue (a big portion comes from playoff broadcasts); the loss of revenue may affect player salaries and negotiations and potentially the draft lottery. The Olympics and players’ union requirements will also factor into the future of the NBA season.
In almost the same category as the NBA (minus the Olympics), the NHL suspended their season after the NBA. With multiple teams sharing the same locker rooms and facilities, it made sense. We can also be looking at hockey in the summertime as well. The league can pick up with the playoffs (which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest playoffs in any sport), but other questions also factor in as well. You will also have to deal with the players’ union here. Players might not get paid during this time, so look to management and unions to work closely to make sure the suspensions for both the NBA and NHL don’t cause labor issues as well.
The NHL has asked teams to make sure that arenas are available through the end of July, but that also brings up logistics. Running both the NBA and NHL with adapted schedules into the summer might be too much to sort out.
The NHL does have a rule that says that in the event of a shutdown, the team with the most points would be the Stanley Cup champion if the season doesn’t continue. That would mean the Boston Bruins (ugh) might get the Cup. I don’t even think Bruins fans would be happy if it ended that way.
Well, the good news is you wont get insanely mad this year that the girl at work who picked winning teams based on which mascots were “cuter” will have a better bracket than your highly researched, data-driven bracket.
Joking aside, March Sadness is real. The NCAA decided to cancel both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments and it looks like they will not be rescheduled at this point. The bad news continued when word spread that both the Men’s and Women’s College World Series were also canceled. Most schools and athletic conferences have canceled or suspended team sports.
The NCAA will lose a lot of TV money due to the cancellation of the Big Dance. And a lot of sponsors, advertisers, and corporate partners won’t get the return on investment they would from the exposure.
But…. The real losers in this is the student athletes. Not going to get into if they should get paid or not, but the fact remains that a lot of seniors across many sports just saw their athletic careers potentially end with a series of press releases.
Will players lose this year of eligibility? Will they be able to come back next year? That question looms large as scholarships and recruiting come into play. Most schools have also canceled recruiting activities as well so look to see the fallout from that.
College football has been affected with the cancellation of spring games and practices. Look for more schools shutting down football activities in the next 2-3 weeks.
Even the most die-hard baseball fans would have to admit there has been an attendance problem the last few years. Ticket sales have dropped, and teams have struggled to fill the seats. Luckily, the TV money is what moves the league now. But when the coronavirus news spread, MLB was forced to cancel all spring training games and have, for now, pushed back Opening Day by two weeks.
Believe it or not, this might be good for baseball long term. There have been calls to shorten the season to the original 154 game length or even more. Fewer games might make things more meaningful in the dog days of summer and keep attention spans locked in. But there are major drawbacks too. Instead of baseball owning the summer like they usually do, they will have to potentially compete with the NBA, NHL, Olympics and MLS who now will be on TV as well.
Right now, the NFL has not been affected much other than practice facilities being closed down. But the big question right now is the draft. Scheduled to take place in Vegas this year, the NFL might be skittish to have the event with such a large crowd attending. League meetings have also been postponed and players will soon find out if they have to attend dreaded OTA this summer.
While most leagues have a security blanket to fall back on for now, the upstart reincarnation of the XFL doesn’t, so it made sense that they were among the last to announce the end of their 2020 season. The first year for any new sports league is tough. What makes this bittersweet was that the XFL was doing really well and had a lot of good press. (Those sideline interviews were pretty awesome.)
It sounds like the league has enough capital to get it through its first three years, but the loss of exposure will hurt. That being said, look for Vince McMahon and his team to come back stronger in 2021.
NASCAR flirted with the idea of racing with no fans in the stands. While it would suck for fans wanting to attend, there was hope that racing would still continue as planned. But it looks like the first race since the news, set to take place in Atlanta, has now been postponed. NASCAR has an extremely long schedule from February to October so it will be interesting to know if these races will be raced at all this year. As more states issue decrees prohibiting large gatherings, look for the potential for more cancelled races.
The most expensive and glamorous sport in the world was put into park yesterday when the Australian Grand Prix, the official start of the F1 season, was cancelled. It was surprising it got that far. The McClaren team had already pulled out due to a team member testing positive for coronavirus, and the likelihood that all teams and drivers who hang out in the paddock and pit lane have been exposed is high.
But the organizers waited until right when fans were lining up before cancelling. This morning, they also cancelled the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix, which were to be held next. The Chinese Grand Prix had already been postponed
With the events rotating around the world, it is hard to imagine Formula 1 (as well as Formula 2 and Formula E) being able to transport hundreds of drivers, mechanics, engineers, team members, tv crews, and logistic personnel around the world without any risk. There is a good chance most of the season might be scrapped.
Major League Soccer announced a delay in the season relatively quick. The Women’s and Men’s teams also cancelled friendlies that had been scheduled. MLS has grown rapidly in teams and fans the last few years, so this is a setback as far as capitalizing on the growth. That being said, the biggest challenge to MLS would be when play resumes. They have held their own (and then some) competing with baseball in the summer. But a delayed NBA and NHL schedule would definitely hurt attendance and most importantly TV ratings.
Champions League and European Soccer
Leagues across the continent have been cancelled. Serie-A, Italy’s top tier league was the first following the disastrous outbreak that has gripped that nation. Spain followed suit with La Liga. Today the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga have been suspended as well. These leagues were headed into the final part of their season. While they don’t have playoffs like American league sports, they do have a promotion and relegation system in place. A prolonged suspension could cause significant issues with that, as promotion into top tiers and relegation into lower level tiers usually results in a gain or loss of tens of millions of dollars.
The PGA yesterday announced the suspension of all tournaments up to the Masters, giving sports fans around the country hope that the “Tradition Unlike Any Other” would survive the onslaught of cancellations. But hope died this morning when the Masters put out a statement saying all activities would be postponed. Much like NASCAR and Formula 1, the steady stream of events on the calendar might make it hard for even a venerable event like this to be held this year.
The massive summer event will be held in Tokyo, Japan this year. While we don’t have any word yet on the impact to the Summer Games, national teams and governing bodies have put a hold on training and activities while the coronavirus is dealt with. The growth of the virus will have an effect on the Games if things get out of control. The mass amount of people that would come into and exit Japan for the one-month sports extravaganza would likely test the government’s abilities to track any carriers from countries that have had outbreaks. That is, unless they ban certain countries from attending. In all likelihood, look for the Olympics to keep things on track as is and look to see what other sports leagues and organizations do in the next few months.
While the loss of sports is huge, and the impact on local economies will suffer, we do want to note that it seems like all leagues, organizations and government officials are doing the right thing during this time of uncertainty. Hopefully it is all over soon and we can back to being fans again.
As of this writing, the deal between the United States and the Taliban for ending the war in Afghanistan is dead. Along with it is National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of the reluctant architects of the deal who (sources say) was never behind the deal to begin with. President Trump was supposed to secretly meet with senior Taliban officials at Camp David to hammer out the final terms of an agreement, but that was also squashed, the final nail in the coffin for such an agreement.
But the United States may still reduce the number of troops fighting its longest war.
As the Trump White House and the Taliban exchange blame for the collapse of peace talks, there are an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This is why Taliban leaders won’t engage with the Afghan government. They believe President Ashraf Ghani’s government is a Western puppet with no legitimacy. The Trump Administration wanted to force the Taliban to recognize Ghani’s legitimacy through a peace agreement with the U.S. but there were a number of outstanding events that would lead to the agreement’s downfall.
First, the United States wanted the Taliban to stop its attacks on U.S. troops in the country to build trust before the deal was made. Senior defense officials say the Taliban actually increased their attacks over the past few weeks, killing a U.S. service member, along with a Romanian service member and ten civilians in a car bomb attack in Kabul. That attack may have been the last straw for President Trump.
The deal is still a major sticking point for Trump, who vowed to bring home American troops from Afghanistan during his 2016 campaign. The peace agreement that was recently killed kept troop strength at 8,600, enough to combat terrorist attacks in the country and didn’t demand a cease-fire from the Taliban. It only asked the terror group to commit to reducing violence in Kabul and Parwan provinces – areas where the United States has a large military presence.
Negotiated by Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, the deal would have required the U.S. to withdraw 5,000 troops within 135 days of signing. The Taliban would be required to reduce violence in those two areas while preventing the country from being a base for international terrorism, while renouncing its alignment with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
After the Kabul bombing on Sep. 5, Khalilzad was recalled to Washington and is no longer talking to the Taliban.
For its part, the Taliban say the deal broke down because the group’s leadership wouldn’t sign any agreement that didn’t list the final end date for American troops leaving Afghanistan, which was supposedly November 2020 or January 2021. Secondly, the United States wanted the Ghani government to postpone Afghan Presidential elections set for Sep. 28, 2019. If Ghani won, anti-Ghani factions would undermine the Afghan President’s legitimacy further with the Taliban by protesting the election victory.
The most important reason the agreement failed, however, is trust. No one at the table and no one with an interest in the agreement actually trusted the Taliban to keep their word. In fact, intercepted communications from the Taliban show the terror organization’s negotiators believe they “fooled” the United States. Still, many in the United States believe the best way out of Afghanistan is through a political agreement.
Only no one yet knows what that agreement will look like.
Three Marines will stand trial on charges of hazing and mistreating recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina, and a fourth may also face charges, Marine officials announced Tuesday.
Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez and Sgt. Riley Gress face charges of violation of a lawful general order and false official statement. Bacchus and Gress were also charged with cruelty and maltreatment. They all will receive special courts-martial, an intermediate-level trial for those facing sentences of 12 months’ confinement or less.
Another staff sergeant, who has not been named, faces an Article 32 investigative hearing for alleged false official statement, cruelty and maltreatment, and failure to obey a lawful order. The result of that hearing will determine whether he will face charges. The news was first reported Tuesday by Marine Corps Times.
The charges for the three Marines are the result of a year-long probe revealing a pattern of hazing and abuse at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that ultimately was found to have contributed to the March suicide death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said in a release Tuesday that the charges and allegations against the four Marines were not associated with Siddiqui’s death, however. This may indicate that more charges have yet to be finalized; in all, 20 Marine drill instructors and officers with oversight of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion were identified for possible legal and administrative action in light of the hazing.
Service records for the three Marines being charged show they were all experienced and decorated troops.
Bacchus, a fixed-wing aircraft mechanic by trade, had previously deployed to Afghanistan and had earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
Lucena-Martinez, a food service specialist, had deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in the relief effort for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He had also received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
Gress, a motor vehicle operator, deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, and also had been awarded a NAM and two Good Conduct Medals, according to his records.
“From the beginning, we have taken these allegations of misconduct very seriously,” Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general of Training and Education Command, said in a statement.
“As proceedings move forward, we will continue to maintain the integrity of the legal process while remaining transparent,” Lukeman added. “The Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island and San Diego transform the best of our nation’s young men and women into U.S. Marines. The safety of our recruits and the integrity of the Marine Corps recruit training program remain our priority.”
To date, no hearings or arraignments for the Marines have been scheduled, officials said.
Anne Way, an Army Reserve spouse, and her husband, Pete. (Military Families)
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation named its newest class of fellows who will represent caregivers at a time plagued by the coronavirus.
Thirty military and veteran caregivers representing 23 states join 225 past and present Dole Caregiver Fellows in bringing attention to the plight of 5.5 million “hidden heroes” that provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans every year, according to a foundation press release.
“Our eighth class of Dole Caregiver Fellows is bringing a new set of unique voices to our mission, but all share similar stories of strength, resilience, and hope in caring for their wounded warriors,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “As they care for their veterans, we are grateful for their passion, wisdom, and willingness to come together and advocate for their fellow hidden heroes. They are the heart and soul of our work.”
Steve Scwab speaks at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s “Hidden Heroes Among Us” event in 2019. (Military Families)
Through the program, caregivers receive support, training and a platform to address the most pressing issues facing the community. They also share their stories directly with national leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and other government agencies, as well as decision makers in the business, entertainment, faith, and nonprofit sectors.
Mari Linfoot, a 2020 Dole Caregiver Fellow, is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Gary, who was paralyzed during a mechanical helicopter failure in 2008. She says there’s a whole phase of just trying to figure out how to be a caregiver.
Mari Linfoot and her husband Gary. (Military Families)
“It takes a long time. I kind of wish someone would have sat me down and said, ‘Don’t be hard on yourself because for the next year-to-three-years you’re going to be trying to figure life out, and that’s OK,'” she said. “You just want to fix everything and you just can’t fix some things.”
At the time of the accident, Mari had a successful real estate company. Due the demands for Gary’s care, she has now taken on a round-the-clock role as his caregiver.
“Gary went through a really dark emotional time. He was so good about putting a happy face on and he didn’t complain, but inside he was just dying. He started engaging in speaking at schools and businesses and it helped bring him out of it,” she said.
The pair travels for Gary’s speaking engagements where they discuss patriotism and technology that helps him get around, including an IBOT wheelchair that raises him to eye level and climbs stairs, and an exoskeleton that he used to walk their daughter down the aisle.
Regular travel challenges include rental cars or hotel rooms that are not accessible for Gary, despite multiple confirmations.
“Life is good. I can’t say life isn’t good. It’s just a lot. Everything is so much more detailed. It requires much more work and thought,” she said. “You have to count on other people doing what they’re supposed to do. You have less chance to take things into your own hands.”
In addition to speaking engagements, the couple founded the American Mobility Project to provide equipment and adaptive products after seeing a need within the civilian population. They also help connect veterans and military members with resources.
Anne Way, an Army Reserve spouse, was named to the Dole Fellowship community for her endurance and involvement.
In 2002, her husband, Pete, took shrapnel to the knee. Through multiple episodes of sepsis and flesh-eating bacteria, his knee was found to contain Middle Eastern strains causing infections. After years of complications and dozens of surgeries, Pete, a nurse practitioner, decided to amputate his leg.
“I trusted his opinion. We felt almost a relief. I was worried I was going to lose him multiple times, so I thought if we can just get rid of the leg, we can keep this from happening again,” Anne said.
In years since, he underwent innovative surgery to help his prosthetic, for which he’s still receiving treatment.
“It wasn’t the instant fix we were hoping for, but we’re working on it.”
Anne, who lives in Georgia, retired from her teaching career and now works as a full-time caregiver.
“I’m probably not as nurturing as some wives,” she laughed. “I encourage him to get up and go.”
“The biggest thing is being that support to him and understanding his physical needs.”
To promote healthy movement, even through amputation, the Ways have started a nonprofit biking community. Vets Fight On works with the VA and Forces United to provide hand and recumbent bikes. She said not only is the exercise aspect helpful, but it allows military members to connect socially.
“I’m looking forward to bringing support and awareness to others. I didn’t look for it and that would have been extremely rewarding to have that encouragement,” she said. “Let’s focus on the positive going forward and unite.”
In a recent scandal, the Air Force came under fire for reportedly spending over $300,000 on specialized, fragile coffee cups. That’s right — the Air Force has been buying, breaking, and replacing cups that reheat liquids in air refueling tankers mid-flight at the low, low price of $1,280 a pop.
But one of the most peculiar things about this scandal is how civilians are shocked and outraged, while those in the military aren’t batting an eye. Why? Because of course the Air Force has that kind of money to blow on stupid crap. And of course they’d be spending exorbitant amounts of money on coffee cups. In fact, it’s probably the most Air Force thing on the planet.
To be fair to the airmen, we get that it’s important for your KC-10 Extender to have nice, warm coffee to keep you alert on long flights. We get it — but, seriously? You guys get to toss out broken, four-figure coffee mugs while we’re training with sticks and tape?
You guys should just give us the money. The other branches would find a better use for that much-needed cash.
Judging from the sailors I know and work with, that may only be enough to get the party started…
Every branch likes to talk about how much they consume, but the expression is “drink like a sailor” — not “drink like a soldier.” A fact that, as a soldier, I am sour about. Nearly every single time sailors get shore liberty, they’re out proving this stereotype true. But beer costs money.
Let’s say it costs around 0 for a keg of beer. That means, rounding down, we’d be able to get 12 kegs for the price of one Air Force coffee mug. At 15.5 gallons of beer per keg, that gives us a grand total of 186 gallons of beer, which would mean one hell of a Friday night for the 340 enlisted sailors aboard a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser.
It’s funny how all the Marines will get to shoot but those 4000+ rounds will all be police called by six or so lance corporals.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
If there’s one thing Marines love more than talking about how bad they have it compared to other branches, it’s shooting. So, it should come as no surprise that, given some extra cash, they’d buy some ammunition to hit the range and prove that every Marine is, indeed, a rifleman.
At 30 cents per round, the cost of one specialized cup means roughly 4,266 rounds — which would give a platoon of Marines a single afternoon of fun.
You do what you gotta do downrange — even if it means weekly kidney stones.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jb Jaso)
The Army is a hodgepodge of different people, professions, and missions, so it’s kind of hard to find one unifying thing that connects all soldiers together — except for an undying love for the one thing that gets the specialists ready for war: energy drinks.
At the cost of about dollar per full-sized can, you’d be able to get an entire brigade’s E-4 mafia a round of the “official soft drink of war!” (trademark pending).
Or it could be used to post bail for the Coastie who started a fight at the local bar with someone who mocked their branch. Personally, I believe this would be more effective at proving their “realness.”
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)
The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces, despite being under Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. And, despite the fact that they’re generally seen as the smartest branch (considering their high ASVAB score requirements), we’re sure that Coasties are also debilitating alcoholics who try to pick up strippers in the Mustang they’re paying for at a 28% interest rate. That’s the true test of a troop’s “realness.”
So, if there’s one thing that pisses off Coasties more than anything, it’s having their branch status brought into question.
For the bulk price of 9.99 per 500 copies, the Coast Guard could buy 4,000 single-sided pieces of paper that simply read, “the Coast Guard is a real branch. Change my mind” and drop that sh*t from a MH-65 Dolphin like they’re on a PsyOps mission.
President Theodore Roosevelt is known for being a Rough Rider, a trust-buster, and coining the infamous phrase, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” He also turned the White House into a veritable menagerie during his stay there. He, of course, had plenty of cats and dogs, but he was known for keeping guinea pigs for his children, and several of his sons had rabbits as well as a bright blue macaw named Eli Yale.
Arguably his most exotic pet, and probably the most unpredictable animal to inhabit the White House, was a real-life badger.
While on a railroad tour through the West, President Roosevelt stayed for several days in Sharon Springs, Kansas. After he’d fulfilled his presidential duties of talking with residents and giving speeches, he was getting ready to head further west when a girl named Pearl Gorsuch, who was twelve-years-old at the time, came up to him to ask if he’d like a badger.
Not exactly your average fan gift.
Whether the president didn’t actually think she was serious, or if he was immediately ready to take a badger on a train ride, no one’s really sure. But when Pearl returned, she had with her a two-week-old badger, as well as the rest of her family.
Roosevelt graciously showed the family (and accompanying badger) around his private rail car, and gave Pearl a locket and a carnation as a thank you. When he took the badger, he was delighted when it started nibbling on his fingers. He named the badger Josiah after Pearl’s father and took it with him in his private car.
On the rest of his trip, Josiah proved to be good-natured, even when met with young children who were enchanted by the animal. Roosevelt wrote to his own children to inform them that he’d be bringing the badger home, and that he’d nicknamed Josiah “Josh” for short.
As the Roosevelt family did have plenty of dogs, a badger-specific cage had to be built, including two feet of underground space for him to burrow.
Roosevelt himself loved setting the badger loose, as Josiah was known for biting ankles, and the family soon learned to stand clear when he was out of his cage.
Archie Roosevelt, who was the second youngest of six children, was nine when Josiah arrived at the White House and laid the best claim to the animal. He would walk around the grounds holding Josiah around the waist. When Teddy expressed concern that Josiah might take advantage of the positioning to bite Archie’s face, Archie insisted that little Josh only bit legs, not faces.
Though Josiah the badger did come home with a penchant for nipping but an overall friendly demeanor, he eventually lost his pleasant attitude. He may have grown overwhelmed by the bustle of the Roosevelt’s White House, or just succumbed to his primal nature, but whichever reason, the result was the same.
The Roosevelt family had him placed in the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was probably for the best both for the animal and the family. However, they continued to visit him, just to make sure he didn’t develop any abandonment issues.
Though each president has had different pet preferences—the Coolidge family actually had a pet raccoon named Rebecca—it’s safe to say that Teddy Roosevelt came the closest to running a zoo out of the White House. But really, who’d refuse a little girl in a small town in Kansas handing you a baby badger?